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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 wallet he found in to the police. Nor is it that Marguerite can recuperate her wallet without being piqued with curiosity about whom it was who found it. As they navigate the social protocols of giving and acknowledging thanks, turbulence enters their otherwise quotidian lives. Written by
A surreal, madcap, on-again, off-again romance between a married 63-year old father of two and a middle-aged dentist and airline pilot is the subject of 87-year old French director Alain Resnais' latest film, Wild Grass. Based on Christian Gailly's novel, The Incident, from a screenplay by Laurent Herbiet and Alex Reval, Wild Grass treats its characters with respect and humor, yet the film, winner of the Jury Special Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, stands out more for the colorful cinematography by Eric Gautier and fine acting from Resnais' regulars Sabine Azéma and André Dussollier than for its puzzling narrative.
The couple, Marguerite Muir (Azéma) and Georges Palet (Dussollier), meet after Marguerite, out shopping for a new pair of shoes, has her purse stolen by a thief on roller blades and consequently loses her red wallet filled with money, credit cards, and identification papers. Georges, however, recovers Marguerite's lost wallet beneath the wheel of his car and returns it to the police. Interested in aviation and intrigued by a photo of the wallet's owner dressed in a pilot's outfit, Georges decides that he wants to meet her.
After the police inform Marguerite that her wallet has been turned in, she calls Georges to say thank you but he is expecting more and his longing for connection is not satisfied, beginning a pursuit that soon becomes an obsession. He sends her letters, leaves messages on her phone, and slashes her tires to keep her at home but she wants nothing to do with him. Ultimately he persists until she informs the police of the unwanted intrusion in her life. Typical of the screwball relationship, however, she suddenly begins to pursue Georges on her own, making visits to his house late at night and waiting for him in a café outside of a movie theatre where he is watching a favorite film from his childhood, The Bridges at Toko Ri. "You love me, then," Georges exclaims when he sees her for the first time.
Throughout it all, there is an underlying hint of danger with suggestions made about Georges' possibly violent past which outbursts of temper seem to underscore. Even so, everything is handled with a light touch and one never fears for Marguerite's safety and elements of danger or even horror are quickly replaced by rapid shots of romance and even snippets of musicals. Like other aged directors swan songs, Rohmer's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, Bergman's Saraband, and Kurosawa's Madadayo, Resnais', in his latest work, continues to grow and experiment, although some may say that the styles of these octogenarian directors have basically remained consistent throughout their careers.
Far removed from the seriousness of his most famous films, Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, just when you think you have figured out Wild Grass, Resnais' whimsy keeps shifting into new territory and its bizarre twists and turns, fake endings, and character reversals will keep you off balance right up until the film's final frame. Like the wild grass in the title which grows where it is least expected, nothing is predictable in this playful but often too cutesy little film.
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