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Ending a movie with the line, “Mummy, when I’m a cat, will I be able to eat cat munchies?” from a character you haven’t seen before isn’t whimsical, it’s just weird. And, in the case of Alain Resnais’ Wild Grass, infuriatingly so, considering the nonsense that precedes it. Because the film is based on the Christian Gailly novel L’Incident, these things aren’t entirely the French New Wave director’s fault. But maybe once you hit your 80s—Resnais is now 88—you should consider your adaptations more carefully.
Wild Grass has no clue what it wants to be. Ostensibly a fanciful romance, the plot centers on a woman whose purse is stolen and the man who finds her wallet. Margeurite (Sabine Azéma) is a flame-haired dentist and amateur pilot, prone to designer-shoe shopping sprees and hurting her patients while lost in thought. Georges (André Dussollier), is a middle-aged nutjob who psychoanalyzes Margeurite via her photos—the second one he finds redeems the ugly-looking first—and decides to give the wallet to the police after he tries to call her but chickens out.
Georges leaves his contact info with the cops, though, and Margeurite rings him up to thank him. When he realizes that’s her entire intent, however, he freaks: “You disappoint me,” Georges says bitterly when she doesn’t want to meet. It’s not the first resentful reaction he has. When he sees some scantily clad young women in a parking garage, he’s attracted but then angry, thinking in voiceover: “You know what it cost you in the past.” He’s worried the police will recognize him. Something is seriously wrong with Georges and he won’t let Margeurite go, constantly writing her letters and eventually slashing her tires when she asks him to stop. Yet eventually—and suddenly—she’s obsessed with him, too.
These are not likable characters, or even ones who seem to have regular contact with Planet Earth. Other details don’t sit right: There’s Georges’ ridiculously patient wife, Suzanne (Anne Consigny), to whom it’s said he’s been married for 30 years, although the 47-year-old actress looks barely out of her 30s. And there’s Margeurite’s best friend Josepha (Emmanuelle Devos), who seems to be the voice of reason until she starts doing weird shit herself. Sporadically, George’s narration turns omniscient and is accompanied by scenes of him writing, suggesting the entire situation is fiction—but you never definitively find out. Accompanying it all is a retro and often obtrusively loud jazz score.
This is not a pleasant experience—never mind that the star-crossed lovers’ path is thoroughly unbelievable. Georges comes off as a psycho and Margeurite a shell, and their motives never rise above because-the-script-says-so. The final nail comes when the story goes from cutesy if disturbing to straight-up Dada. And how is this mess relevant to the title? Who the fuck cares. cp