Friday, June 11, 2010

Movie with Abe: Wild Grass

Wild Grass
Directed by Alain Resnais
Released June 11, 2010

The 2009 Opening Night Selection from the New York Film Festival finally arrives in theatres today, from veteran director Alain Resnais, who celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday last week. His latest film is comparable to “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” made in 2006 by then-82-year-old Sidney Lumet, demonstrating such vigor, energy, and complexity in its storytelling that it’s hard to believe that the film was made by an octogenarian. Resnais’ film in particular boasts a liveliness that is due in large part to the spectacular colors which the film uses, not the least of which is the stark red hair of its female protagonist.

“Wild Grass” is a highly imaginative tale that isn’t nearly as pleasant as it at first seems. What begins as a random act of kindness results in a pattern of obsession on the part of the man who did something good. Georges (André Dussolier) finds the wallet lost by the eccentric Marguerite (Sabine Azéma) and is not content to be simply thanked by her and then have them walk their separate ways. Georges expects some sort of relationship to come out of his charitable act, and is severely disappointed when Marguerite does not initiate anything. Georges’ stubborn desire to forge a connection with Marguerite is the driving force of the film.

Yet this isn’t a case of a shady, predatory man stalking a helpless woman. Marguerite too yearns to know more about Georges, even if she isn’t anywhere near as forward about it. This is perhaps the most friendly and safe form of obsession that has existed on screen. While Georges is hardly too concerned with sweeping Marguerite off her feet, he certainly is not a danger to her. Marguerite is also quite an oddball, and not in an overly vulnerable way. Their romance may not be conventional, but it seems all but inevitable from the start of the film.

Dussolier, whose other recent credits include fantastic French films “Micmacs” and “Tell No One” (this coming Monday’s Movie You Aught To See), has just the right unpleasantness to make Georges not quite charming but still somehow endearing. Azéma does a great job as well of making Marguerite mysterious and just as unsure of herself as the audience is of her. The real standouts from the supporting cast are Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos, who previously starred as a couple in the wonderful “A Christmas Tale.” Amalric is loose and fun here as a spritely cop who takes it upon himself to watch Georges closely after he brings in the wallet, and Devos steals every scene she’s in as a dentist friend of Marguerite. The already peculiar film takes some bizarre turns towards the end, but overall it’s a decidedly unique and enjoyable experience.


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