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||IMDB Rating: 6.3/10 from PG votes
||Release: 04 Nov 2009 /
||Genre: Drama, Romance
||Director: Alain Resnais,
||Stars: Drama, Romance
||Synopsis: A wallet lost and found opens the door to romantic adventure for Georges and Marguerite. After examining the ID papers of its owner, it is not a simple matter for Georges to turn the red ...
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The 87-year-old French New Wave veteran directs his longtime star and
companion Sabine Azéma (27 years his junior) and regular co-star André
Dusollier in this adaptation of an idiosyncratic novel by Christian
Gailly about a man and a woman who become fascinated with each other
when the man finds the woman's stolen wallet.
The essence of the piece is that the principals are hesitant,
indecisive, and a mite crazy. Their experience is the kind that falls
through the cracks of well-ordered existence. Hence the new title
replacing Gailly's "The Incident," to "Les herbes folles," "crazy
grasses." There's a recurrent image of wild grass growing high among
The comfy suburban house of Georges (Dusollier) feels rather like that
of Jean-Louis Trintignant outside Geneva, and like Kieslowski's 'Red,'
this film is about trying to connect, and has a protagonist who's both
respectable and an outlaw. Georges is paranoid about being recognized
by police, as if he's done something wrong or been in jail. Yet he has
two charming grown children (Sara Forestier, Vladimir Consigny), and a
loving and equally appealing wife, Susanne (Anne Consigny, familiar to
US French film fans from Schnabel's 'Diving Bell' and Desplechin's
'Christmas Tale'). Georges never acquires a full back-story, but
Dusollier is brilliant at depicting his mercurial temperament, and a
continual pleasure to watch, as is the equally live-wire Azéma.
Marguerite Muir (Azéma) is a dentist who shares an office with the
offbeat French film diva Emmanuelle Devos. Another big French film
actor, Matthieu Amalric, plays the cop in the station to whom Georges
delivers the found wallet. Strong newcomer Nicolas Duvauchelle, a
former boxer, plays Georges' daughter's boyfriend, and he invites
Georges to come watch him fight, as well as to use the familiar "tu"
with him, but Georges doesn't do either.
Muir has put off till tomorrow reporting the purse-snatching that
happened after she bought an expensive pair of shoes. Georges looks up
Marguerite and has her phone number and address, but can't bring
himself to call her. Georges and Marguerite wind up stalking each
other, and the police become involved to call Georges off.
One can see how this could be a quirky, amusing novel, and the
innumerable missteps, oversteps, and hesitations would work well
verbally. This kind of convoluted mental quirkiness is hard to
translate, which is why idiosyncratic literary masterpieces like
Sterne's Tristram Shandy have defied the impulse to adapt them
cinematically, though Michael Winterbottom made a sporting try (shown
in the 2005 NYFF and reviewed by me here). Resnais' task is to find a
visual equivalent. The highly mobile camera of Eric Gautier is a
considerable asset. On the other hand the jazzy music of Hollywood
composer Mark Snow is sometimes merely obtrusive, as at a family
gathering where the sax pointlessly overwhelms the scene. But on the
other hand it's warm and enveloping in an old-fashioned way in the
opening sequences when the two main characters are introduced and we're
meant to be charmed and drawn in, and we are.
Resnais and Gailly did not collaborate, at Gaillys' request; he wanted
to be left alone to work on his next novel. One of the ways Resnais
portrays confused intentions is to show cameos of imagined actions in
frames where the character is doing something else; and another is that
most obvious interjection of the literary into the cinematic, the use
of frequent voice-overs. The production is expensive for a French art
film, involving fairly lavish sets and scenes involving small
airplanes. One of the links between Georges is that his father wanted
to be a pilot and he loves aviation, while Marguerite actually has a
Though Assistant Director Christophe Jeauffroy may have done a lot of
the work for the aging master, there are many of the latter's familiar
touches, including a lot of rapid cutting early on that recalls his
1963 'Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour.' A director but not a writer
whose early fame was due to adaptations of Marguerite Duras ('Hiroshima
mon amour') and Alain Robbe-Grillet ('Last Year at Marienbad'), which
represent totally opposed sensibilities, Resnais here tries on yet
another one. The result is far more conventional than those Sixties
films, and on the glossy and mainstream side, veering between farce and
melodrama. 'Wild Grass' is full of assurance, and engages from the
start. It may disappoint viewers in search of something more profound,
more meditative, or funnier, but it's still a work of considerable
accomplishment and doubtless may reward repeat viewings by devotees.
Show as an official selection of the NYFF 2009 at Lincoln Center.
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