Movie review: Alain Resnais' Wild Grass, starring Sabine Azéma, André Dussollier and more (with trailer video)

No synopsis can do this film justice, but here goes anyway. Marguerite, (Sabine Azéma) a dentist and part-time aviator goes shopping for shoes at a special store that caters to her unusually sized feet. Upon returning to her car someone snatches her purse. Her discarded wallet is later found in the middle of a parking lot by Georges (André Dussollier). He turns it in to the police, but not before becoming infatuated with the woman. His unhealthy obsession with her grows and soon he's stalking her, but that’s just the set up. Things go positively haywire in the last 45 minutes, as power roles become reversed and just about every principle character goes mad in their own way. And nothing will prepare you the film’s final shot, which is simultaneously hilarious and awe-inspiring. If I was to compare Wild Grass to anything, it would be the films of David Lynch — but only if he made a happy and colorful PG-rated film.

Also like Lynch, the Filmmaking here is just about flawless. Resnais (who turned 88 earlier this year and who made his first film in 1935) is is every bit as modern as Michel Gondry or Arnaud Desplechin, and as clever and skillful as any other director working today. The film is full of sweeping crane shots and ravishing slow motion photography, and can be thoroughly enjoyed on a visual level alone. The entire cast, which includes French superstars Emmanuelle Devos (Kings and Queen), Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace) and Anne Consigny (A Christmas Tale) in small roles, is able to add even more layers of mystery. The candy-colored cinematography by Éric Gauthier gives the film an almost comic book feel. There’s even a killer score by X-Files composer Mark Snow.

While my feelings about Wild Grass are positively euphoric, it’s not something I would recommend to everyone. I could sense that the film was trying the patience of a few people at the screening. For those adventurous souls dying to see something truly original, Wild Grass won’t disappoint. It’s not the kind of film where you need to understand various literary references or know any of Resnais’ previous work to enjoy. I think its best to go into this one clean and let the imagery and madness wash over you. You'll get is the feeling that almost anything is possible in this movie, just don't expect a payoff or any real rationality what-so-ever.

[Editor's Note: Wild Grass opens Fri., Aug 13 at Muvico Baywalk in St. Pete and Centro Ybor in Tampa.]

Wild Grass, the latest from director Alain Resnais’ (Last Year at Merienbad, Hiroshima Mon Amour), has elicited some passionate debate among critics and cinephiles. Some see the film as a return to form for the veteran director to his experimental glory days of the 1960s; other just find the film's aggressive strangeness irritating. But this is a polarization of the best kind for a film, because it means no one has seen any thing quite like it before. I imagine Kubrick’s 2001 received a similar critical reaction the year it came out.

This surreal and almost incomprehensible tale is at once a love story, a stalker film, a sex farce, a spoof, and even a parable about life and death. There’s also the possibility of some sci-fi crammed in there too. Wild Grass' tone shifts from one extreme to the other, but in a way that feels almost natural. And the film never feels random, because the filmmaking is so skillful and deliberate.


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