There’s something reassuring in the fact that at 88 years old, legendary French filmmaker Alain Resnais is still confounding audiences and playing with expectations. His two most well-known films, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961), both cornerstones of the French New Wave, are abstract, surreal musings on the nature of love and obsession, and that’s exactly how you could describe his latest effort, Wild Grass. Wild Grass is more whimsical than those two classics, but it also features all of their most infuriating qualities, including elliptical, nonsensical storytelling, ponderous digressions about nothing and characters whose actions often seem random and unmotivated.
The plot of Wild Grass is pretty simple: A middle-aged Frenchman named Georges (Dussollier) finds the lost wallet of dentist Marguerite (Azema). He turns it in to the police, she gets it back, she calls to thank him, he becomes disturbingly obsessed with her. In practice, though, the movie lurches from suspense-thriller build-up (including hints at a possible violent past for Georges) to awkward comedy to strained melodrama to a bunch of other stuff that is completely uncategorizable (a late scene in the movie focuses ominously on Georges’ unzipped fly).
Maybe Resnais is trying to say something profound, or maybe he’s just messing around because he can. Either way, Wild Grass is a mess, and not in a particularly compelling way. Resnais’ early films are frustrating, too, but at least they’re daring and new. Wild Grass is just more of the same old nonsense.