Les herbes folles (Wild Grass) (Director: Alain Resnais): Well, it’s often true that there’s one film each year that I absolutely hate. Who knew it would be this generally well-reviewed film from renowned Nouvelle Vague director Alain Resnais? Well, I might have known, actually. I’ve never liked Hiroshima Mon Amour and I can’t even look at stills from Last Year at Marienbad without smirking, but the post-Cannes reports all indicated that Les herbes folles was a light and airy confection, romantic and sweet. Let’s just say I didn’t find that to be the case.
Georges Palet (André Dussollier) has been married for 30 years to the drop-dead sexy Suzanne (Anne Consigny). Yet inexplicably, after he finds a wallet belonging to a woman named Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azema, Resnais’ girlfriend), he becomes obsessed with her, partially based on the pilot’s licence he finds there. Georges’ boyhood dreams of flight have never come to pass, but he quickly becomes obsessed with contacting this woman. In fact, after some very stalker-like behaviour, she asks the police to pay him a visit to warn him to stay away from her. Only after he complies, she begins to pursue him. It may be meant as playful but it comes across as wholly unreal. In fact, much of the film feels like it’s taking place on a very artificial stage.
While the camera work is dazzling and Resnais still shows his playful side at the age of 87, by the halfway point the whole thing became annoying to me. The acting becomes more and more hysterical, and when Marguerite’s character, a dentist, begins hurting her patients with the drill, it felt like an apt metaphor for what the audience was going through. My beef with Resnais is that he seems to be nonsensical on purpose, trying to alienate the audience. By the end, he’s using too many tricks, and the unreality of the whole enterprise just ended up leaving me cold to the characters. He’d already lost me well before the end, but the truly bizarre conclusion to the film left many in the audience murmuring in confusion.