Les herbes folles (2009) Poster

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Resnais adapts novel "L'Incident" by Christian Gailly
Chris Knipp17 September 2009
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 stones.

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 pilot's license.

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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Wild (Gr)ass
jdesando9 September 2010
"After cinema, nothing surprises us." Narrator

In Wild Grass, Georges (Andre Dussollier) finds a wallet, finds the owner, Marguerite (Sabine Azema), and finds an odd connection with her and his inner self. I have no idea if I'm right in all of this—director Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad) has never been easy, but its obscurity seemed to tell me something about being human and quite a bit about wild-ass filmmaking by an 88 year old director who's throwing everything into the pot and hoping it comes out a tasty stew. What Georges is pursuing in Marguerite, an eccentric dentist, is part a romantic notion of his past as it may relate to the cinema and yet the painful recollection of past deeds too dark to articulate. That cinema is artificial is a leitmotif at least. His acceptance, her acceptance, and their recurring animosity reflect in relief the vicissitudes of love in all the sordid glory from cinema.

Even trips to the police for each of them are more like therapy sessions than the business of identifying the robbery victim (Marguerite) and thanking the finder (Georges). The same policeman, reacting with the incredulity that usually comes only from the audience, lends a surreal take on the strange antics of the principals. Resnais is at full force, even in his eighties, with symbolism from wild grass growing in concrete cracks, unusual feet and shoes, a stolen bag floating almost free, and aviation that like cinema floats free but not without its rules. He creates these images as motifs in order to make order of Georges' obsessions, which become erotic and dangerous even as he seems more lost in his dreams and cinema than ever before.

As George repeatedly backs into the protection of the door to the cinema, we can be quite sure Resnais is certifying the salutary and comforting embrace of film.

That dreamlike state, with the voice over so kindly parsing some of George's passions, is best expressed in the cinema, where Bridges at Toko-Ri makes solid the theme of lost friendship and the transforming of reality into our own visions.
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Welcome Back to the Wonderfully Confusing World of Alain Resnais
gradyharp30 October 2010
WILD GRASS (LES HERBES FOLLES) is based on the novel 'L'incident' by Christian Gailly, a writer who delights in taking simple incidents and pushing them to the extremes of climax beyond which few would ever dream. But Alain Resnais has taken this novel (adapted by Alex Reval and Laurent Herbiet), infused it with his own characteristic joy of playing reality versus imagination, memory versus illusion, and has come up with a film that will likely have a limited audience, but for those who delight in letting go and simply flying along with the imagination of a genius or two, then WILD GRASS will satisfy and more.

The story is a romance in the manner of a hesitation waltz. The story is narrated (by Edouard Baer) to give the opening aspects of the story momentum. Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azéma), a dentist and Spitfire pilot, has just purchased shoes and leaves the store when her handbag is snatched by a running thief. Later, the aging Georges Palet (André Dussollier) finds a red wallet in a parking lot, examines the contents, struggles with the burden of what to do, and finally turns the wallet in to the police, Bernard de Bordeaux (Mathieu Amalric) who takes his name in case there is a reward. Georges returns home to his wife Suzanne (Anne Consigny), who understands that Georges' strange behavior since his father's recent death may be enhanced by a new predicament: Georges is worried about the incident. He places telephone calls to Marguerite, visits her home, writers her letters - all of which confounds him as to his obsession with the woman he has never met. Georges family (he has two children) find his preoccupation strange and indeed Georges seems to have a dark secret from his past that causes him to have minor verbal explosions that seem wholly inappropriate. The incident becomes his life.

Meanwhile Marguerite shares her 'stalker' with her fellow dental assistant Josepha (Emmanuelle Devos) who attempts to manage Marguerite's change in behavior. Marguerite now is the one who needs to know more about Georges and stalks him. Ultimately Marguerite invites Georges to accompany her and her fellow pilots on a practice flight and a wildly entertaining practice flight game ensues: both Georges and Marguerite navigate the social protocols of giving and acknowledging appreciation and this bizarre catch as catch can romance comes to a Hollywood end - complete with flashbacks to old films etc. The audience is left to figure out just what has really happened - is this a wild love story on a collision course or is it simply a pair of fantasias played by two strange, emotionally isolated, and bored people, longing for life to perk up a bit?

Just as the title WILD GRASS suggests, little incidents (or invasions of wild grass into cracks and interstices quite by accident) can cause a butterfly effect and that is where the now 87 year old Resnais feels most at home. The irresistibly colorful cinematography is courtesy Eric Gautier and the perfect musical scoring is by Mark Snow. The danger in any kind of surrealism theme is that the audience becomes concerned that much of it doesn't make since. And so it is here, where even with the aid of the narrator there are many twists and turns that seem simply flights of fancy - and they probably are!

Grady Harp
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Bizarre twists and turns
Howard Schumann19 July 2010
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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bloody brilliant French version of a David Lynch film
soutexmex13 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
WOW! What a film and it's shocking to see all the negative reviews here. This is a thinking man's movie, which complements 'The Seventh Seal' where that Ingmar Bergman classic is overt about death, this is more subtle and confounding. This is not a surface entertain us plot line; rather, it's subterfuge for the real intent. SPOILER ALERT! Rewatch this film and view the female dentist as Death. It explains the way the main character reacts the entire movie, especially to the police when they arrive to speak with him, what he says about his neighbor committing suicide. You'll notice throughout the film how the MC alternates between reaching out to embrace 'death' and angrily spurning 'death'. I did not clue in on this until the last two minutes of the movie when the wife asks 'death's dentist colleague if she wants to join them and she says, absolutely not! (You'll notice at the end, the MC kisses death, accepting his fate) That's when I knew and sure enough, the MC's soul soars into the heavens until the plane crashes and it is received back into the grave of wild grass or is the soul reincarnated as the little girl asks, if she becomes a cat in her next life? Yes, at the end, I can see the woman writing a novel and all this is in her imagination, but this plays like David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive' with multiple interpretations. No one will be truly satisfied with one interpretation or another but it does make us think and for that, the director did his job.
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'Mama, when I become a cat, will I be able to eat cat munchies?'
robert-temple-111 April 2011
The great master of the French cinema, Alain Resnais, has produced this bizarre, brilliantly made and intensely surrealist 'crazy masterpiece'. It is based upon a novel entitled 'l'Incident' ('The Incident') with which I am unfamiliar, so it is difficult to know how much of this film originated from the febrile brain of Resnais himself. The story and its treatment carry on the long-standing French traditions of two literary movements: surrealism and 'unanisme'. The surrealist input is immediately obvious, because the story itself, although realistically portrayed, is inherently entirely surrealist. It begins with an 'incident', namely the theft of a purse from a woman who has been shopping in the Palais Royale in Paris. For several minutes we do not even see her face, but only the back of her head, and her face only appears for the first time floating in a bath. It was André Breton's famous surrealist novel 'Nadja' which focused the minds of the entire French intelligentsia upon the importance of chance events which lead to chains of further complications and create a whole alternative future to that which might have been. (Kieslowski and other film directors have exploited this motif in numerous films.) This story commences in just such a way. And then further chance events ensue, such as the man finding the stolen purse and becoming obsessed with the woman who owned it, especially because she has a pilot's licence in the purse and he is obsessed by airplanes and female solo pilots. The influence of 'unanisme' on this story is shown by the intense portrayals of only tiny portions of the backgrounds, stories, and motives of the characters, with the emphasis being given to them acting as a group, and we the viewers being left to imagine the rest. In other words, exposition is below the minimum, and we never do learn what is wrong with all these crazy people, and it is their interrelations which dominate. These techniques were above all pioneered and demonstrated by the French novelist Jules Romains, who founded the literary movement known as 'unanisme'. Having read 27 novels by Romains, I have more than a passing familiarity with his work. It has been more influential than people tend to realize. It must be kept firmly in mind that this Resnais film contains a great deal of gnomic humour and sly jokes. It is not meant to be taken any more seriously than life itself. Some of the references are incomprehensible, as they are doubtless meant to be: why do we keep seeing the camera moving over swaying wild grass in a field? Why do we see so many pavement cracks with tufts of wild grass growing out of them? We shall never know. Many of the shots, editing, compositions, angles, and moods are so outstanding that we can see clearly that Resnais has lost none of his genius in his long career. As always, much in this film is never meant to be explained, but is only suggested, and we can make of it what we will. All of the leading characters are eventually shown to be seriously mentally unbalanced, and I take this as Resnais's view of humanity generally. And who can say he is wrong? There is a lot to be said for the theory that everybody is insane. That would then explain everything about the world. In fact, the only sane person in this film seems to be the little girl who asks about the cat munchies. And we do not even know who she is. This film is funny, sad, shocking, upsetting, provocative, thoughtful, disturbing, incomprehensible, deeply meaningful, irrational, profound, and many other things besides, but why use up all the adjectives when there is a compulsively fascinating movie to watch instead.
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Waste of Time
lsimon3316 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Last Year at Marienbad is one of my all-time favorite films. I like Hiroshima, Mon Amour, too, but find it less compelling (I know others would disagree with me). I am no stranger to anti-realist, surrealist, and experimental film. I thought it would be interesting to see a recent Resnais film that was actually available at Redbox! I was wrong.

Wild Grass is neither amusing nor interesting. It is tedious, ridiculous, and nonsensical (and not in a good way). It "hints" at many aspects of the main character's past and personality, playfully suggesting he was a convicted murderer or rapist who has served his time. In addition to that, he acts in completely contradictory ways, is usually irrational and petulant, and is lecherous, dumb, and abusive to women. He slashes the woman's tires and she eventually finds this kind of behavior irresistible? He sexually assaults her business partner/friend in the latter's car, and the friend enjoys it? Can you say "misogyny"?

And we're supposed to believe this beautiful young woman is his wife? I kept thinking: I must have gotten it wrong; this must be his daughter who is, for some reason, pretending to be his wife. A colossal casting error this alone. Maybe she was identified toward the beginning of the film as his daughter, but I couldn't bring myself to care enough to go back and re-watch the beginning.

The main characters seem to have a lot of money, suggesting some level of responsibility (the woman, after all, is a dentist), but they act worse than teenagers, and even more irrationally and self-destructively. I felt compelled to see how it would end, but was, predictably, annoyed with myself for having wasted so much of my time. This is a very stupid film and I would not recommend it to anyone.

And one reviewer here gave us the "key" to the film: the dentist represents Death! Wow. As if Ingmar Bergman never existed? If I have to read the film metaphorically in that way, then it depends entirely on a secret "key" that 99 percent of viewers will not get. I could think of nothing more pretentious than that. No thanks.
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Absurd and incomprehensible
simona gianotti28 May 2010
It would be not fair to start my review without saying when the credits appeared, the nine people, me included, who had resisted till the end, started to stare one another and some of them, me included, began to laugh. I went to see this movie with all my good intentions, believed from the trailers that it could be enjoyable. Once I have seen it, I can only say: what does it mean? And when I saw the reaction of the other viewers I felt at least somehow comforted. Well, the idea that " les herbes folles", "the wild grass", that which grows against every adverse condition, is a metaphor of some human inner ineradicable desire to feel passion, or life, is quite clear, but the rendering of this idea passes through annoying characters, absurd situations, boring dialogues and ends in an incomprehensible and odd way. I generally do not like going out of movie theatres before the end of a movie, I want to watch it till the end, as a form of respect, before judging it, but this time the temptation was so strong!
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The joy of cinema, Resnais at 87 - whimsical, fanciful in vivid delight, with comparable verve doses by his cinematic collaborators familier
Ruby Liang (ruby_fff)5 August 2010
WILD GRASS, aka "Les Herbes Folles" in French, is aptly titled, naturellement. Such grass that grows wild, is unpredictable in how it blooms and affects its surrounding neighbors. It can be amazing or annoying, subtle or gregarious. Consulting my French-English dictionary: 'herbe' is grass, while 'folle' does mean mad, wild, foolish. Either way, veteran French filmmaker Alan Resnais, emboldened by his worthy age and years in the world of cinema, gave us quite a treat to what the joy of cinema can truly be, a film about a pair of 'madman and madwoman' - 'folles' foolish, tremendously so or otherwise.

The story is a series of events string together, seemingly easy to follow, with the comfort of a narrator voice-over interjecting certain rhyme or reason - the varying plot points converge, yet without notice, diverge also. Scratching your head? Don't mind that - ignore the inquisitive curious "why's" - why ever not! Go along with the characters offered and enjoy the ride.

A fabulous French cast: Sabine Azéma again is the leading lady Maguerite in exciting red frizzy hair-do, André Dussollier is Georges exuding his baffled charm in the guise of nonchalance, Anne Consigny is the unperturbed wife of Georges, Mathieu Amalric (of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" 2007) is one curiously affable French Police, Emmanuelle Devos (of "Read My Lips" 2001) is dear friend and go-between Josépha to Maguerite. At times the characters and situations might classify as caricature-like. The style and approach of cinematography (by Éric Gautier) and editing (by Hervé De Luze) skilfully call upon different genres and nostalgic inferences to cinema fantastique, along with vivid colorful set design, as seen in Maguerite's living space.

The wisdom of employing music by composer Mark Snow (of "The X-Files" who had collaborated with Resnais on his prior film "Private Fears in Public Places" 2006) deftly matches Resnais' non-conforming storytelling with mystery-tale notes infused, then it's catchy jazz rhythm, to gliding unobtrusive scores, sheer glove-fitting music accompaniment enhancing our Resnais-induced cinematic experience, indisputable.

I suspect Georges could still be under the influence of his 'grief' phase to his father's recent passed away, that any behavior irrational can be forgivingly disregarded by partner, family, friends. On the other hand, for Marguerite, she's probably bored by the day in and day out routines of her dentistry bread & butter profession, so why not succumb to a total stranger and go loop the loops in the vast sky of possibilities. Sure sounds dreamlike, capricious, unscrupulously playful - certainement. We are blessed with this dessert délicieux from Resnais at 87 (in 2009), hence ask not why. It's Wild Grass - no foreseen reason or logic. Take it in stride and s'amuser.

Bonus noted: subtitles were by Ian Burley, my favorite French/Italian film translator, who provided the outstanding subtitles in "Bread and Tulips" 2000. He was absolutely keen in matching rhymes on the English subtitles to the French lyrics sung in Resnais 1997 "Same Old Song" aka 'On Connaît la Chanson'.
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Get that woman a comb
Roland E. Zwick16 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
By turns cerebral, thought-provoking, pretentious and off-putting, "Wild Grass" is a tale of two strangers who become inexplicably obsessed with one another.

Adapted by Alex Reval and Laurent Herbiet from the novel "L'Incident" by Christian Gailly, and directed by the legendary French New Waver Alain Resnais, "Wild Grass" focuses on what happens after Georges (Andrei Dussollier), a middle-aged married man who's an aviation aficionado and all-around nut-case, finds a stolen wallet belonging to Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azema), a frizzy-haired (could it be the "wild grass" of the title?) red-headed dentist who flies propeller planes in her spare time. Without even knowing the woman, Georges finds himself inexorably drawn to her, and he'll stop at nothing to insinuate himself into her life. In turn, Marguerite, a single woman who appears to have been boycotting beauty salons her whole life, develops mixed feelings for this man who has essentially become a stalker and who has even gone so far as to slash the tires on her car. And before you know it, Marguerite has become so unstrung and neurotic in her own right that she's sleeping in the cockpit of her plane and has become such a sadist with the dental drill that she would give Dr. Christian Szell - or the Marquis de Sade, for that matter - a run for his money in a pain-inflicting sweepstakes.

The off-putting nature of the film comes from the fact that the characters often feel more like the product of a writer's imagination than organic outgrowths from the real world. Their motivations and responses are almost maddeningly preposterous and unclear at times and, as a consequence, our patience with their behavior wears decidedly thin after awhile. There are other distractions as well, such as Marguerite's extraordinarily unmanaged Little Orphan Annie coiffure (we find ourselves wanting to cry out, "Why don't you run a damn comb through that thing?") and the self-conscious cinephilia that is oh-so-typical of French filmmakers.

On the positive side, Resnais manages to achieve a hypnotic rhythm with his fluidly flowing tracking shots, and there are definitely some elements of style and theme from some of Resnais' bona fide classics, like "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" and "Last Year at Marienbad," running through this work (the nature of intimacy between strangers and near-strangers being just one of the issues touched upon in all three films).

However, these few virtues are not enough to overcome the unlikable nature of the storyline and the two loony and self-absorbed folk who serve as its protagonists. So I guess it's only appropriate that the movie culminate in a spectacularly stupid and laughable into-the-wild-blue-yonder finale that literally, as well as figuratively, crashes and burns on its way to that much delayed but highly appreciated "fin," signaling the end of our ordeal. A fond farewell to all around.
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I want my cab fare back
t_rexx25 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
A stalker who damages property to top it off and isn't jailed? A cop who stops everything (slow crime day?) over... a lost wallet?? A "dentist" with teeth grosser than Al Gore's??? The truly weird "I knew you'd want it" make out scene in front of the house with a woman he'd seen all of SECONDS in one previous scene???? The wife with her "I'd like to meet your mistresses", and "Sure mistress, come on in for tea, I wanted to meet you anyway", followed moments later by "So you're bringing them home now?" ???????? "Mommy, when I turn into a cat, will I eat cat food?" ?????????????? To think I wasted an evening and three times as much as the movie ticket cabbing it over to see this abortion - but then I KNEW better than to go see a French "film" in the first place - and all because high brow reviewers gave this incomprehensible pointless mess gold stars BECAUSE it was an incomprehensible pointless mess, par for the course for the "if it's unentertaining and godawful, it must be 'art'" crowd...

I hate the human race.
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Visual, Playful Joy en Francais
dbairdk17 July 2010
Wild Grass is filled with visual joy and playful surprises. It left me smiling from beginning to end. With a brilliant cast and incredible cinematography that will playfully take viewers from blue skies above to the very human folly down below, the story celebrates cinema storytelling itself, as well as our human wish to find some of that movie magic in our daily lives, no matter the consequences. Resnais is now 88 year old (or perhaps 88 years young, more appropriately), for he has created a cinematic cocktail that leaves viewers dizzy with delight and ready to ask the local projectionist to: "pour me another. I want to experience that again!"
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neoplop13 September 2009
As far as I'm concerned, it's been a long downhill road for Resnais since "Hiroshima, mon amour".

I just saw "Les herbes folles" at the Toronto Film Festival right after Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" (which is incidentally in my opinion the best film of the decade). Both films rely heavily on a narrated voice-over. In the case of Resnais's piece, it's unbearable.

Beyond this, André Dussollier's and Sabine Azéma's performances are pretty random, bursting from one emotion to another without warning. It _is_ better than hearing them sing in "On connait la chanson", but this is not saying much! At least it matches the unpredictability of their characters' actions, which is the kindest way I can say that the script is still in draft stage, abruptly changing tack several times in the course of the movie.

When the script fails, Resnais resorts to cinematic devices such as repetition, reverse direction, vignetting, and the ever-popular shrinking circle closing in on a character's head. It's annoying.

I am really struggling to say something positive about the movie. Mathieu Amalric's dead pan and humane portrayal of a desk cop is the strong point here. Both his character and performance try to lend a touch of the real world and comedy that succeeds to this otherwise random film. It's unfortunately not enough.
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Nice Scenery & Acting, But That's About It
geminiredblue4 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As stated in my summary, the scenery was nice and the acting was stellar by all involved. I watch a lot of foreign and indie movies and Wild Grass had a lot of both qualities. My complaint is that I felt the story rambled on too much. Halfway through, it lost focus. I'm no cretin, I like movies that have twists and all. But I felt some of the situations that the characters found themselves in could've been resolved more intelligently. The main character, an older gentleman, becomes obsessed with the woman (whose wallet he found) despite the fact that he's married with children (and grand-children.) The way he goes about getting her attention is to call her up at all hours of the night, write her evermore disturbing letters and ultimately slash the tires on her car. Can you say "STALKER!?!" And what was with the ending? Or even the title for that matter? Nonetheless, I respect the director's work.
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holy moly!
gibbons-117 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Holy Moly! I looked forward to this with great expectation based on reviews, awards and the director's deserved reputation. Now, after having just seen it, I wish I could get not just my money but my time back. The opening production credits were a warning...an 'official co-production' of France and Italy (that means subsidized by the govts.) and half a dozen production companies (nobody in charge)...are both signs of a project that probably should not have been made. There is no arc, no cohesion, no true story, no definable character, much over the top emoting, much 'look at us, we are so clever' nodding and winking. There is great camera work though, which on its own earned this a five out of ten.
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not a fun "romance"
mrdogman21 May 2012
Other reviews describe the movie well enough. I just want to take issue with a few of them; the relationship between the characters -- I would not describe as madcap, quirky, or even a romance. The relationship is too weird for those adjectives (quirky is not strong enough). There's nothing fun about it and the motivations for the most part are unclear. I don't consider myself a lazy thinker; I enjoy movies that are thought provoking, but not ones which leave so much up to the viewer that we're required to fill in the histories of the characters to make the thing make any sort of sense. Halfway through this movie, it lost me. Sorry, I don't have enough time left in my life to analyze the weirdness of some fictional French folks. Loved her hair though!
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Wanted to leave many times before it actually ended...
R. Ignacio Litardo6 March 2011
I think this eerie feeling happened to me only once, with a very bad Italian film. Maybe it's an "artistic effect", to make you uncomfortable on purpose. If that is so, the result has been wholly achieved :)...

If not, this is simply "bad art".

I would have thought the film ended with the kiss in the aerial scene, but as IMDb reviewer Howard Schumann writes, "fake endings, and character reversals will keep you off balance right up until the film's final frame". Yes, but while most reviewers found that interesting, I just didn't.

I wouldn't watch it again even if somebody paid me for doing so :).
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Not another 'French' movie....
cmother121 March 2011
I don't know why I keep hiring these films. This is another of a genre that I've dubbed 'Eurotwaddle'. The French are its most skilled producers (look out also for "Celine and Julie go Boating") I've given it 2 stars because I thought the acting was really quite good. Unfortunately the plot was utterly implausible nonsense and I got a distinct feeling that the scriptwriters had painted themselves into a corner by the end. Hence a not very convincing finale to a not very convincing story. I sometimes think French directors are stuck in a time-warp, endlessly trying to re-create the next "Jules and Jim", but failing miserably. Funny thing is, I once saw a film by the same director, made 50 years ago, called "Last Year in Marienbad". It was equally plot less, none of the characters had names and nothing really happened. For some reason it worked and I loved it. Maybe it's just me getting old. . . .
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A whimsical story about stalking your way to love and happiness
wandereramor21 May 2012
Wild Grass begins, more or less, with a man finding a stolen wallet and returning it to the woman it belongs to. He then becomes obsessed with said woman and stalks and harasses her. She falls obsessively in love with him in turn, like you do.

Okay, let's cut straight to the point: the script is dreck, concealing its misogyny under layers of nonsensical character interaction and forced quirk. Cinephiles, who have never been really concerned with scripts in the first place, have lapped this up and praised it as a sign that the octogenarian Renais still has it. (And as an aside, it is totally badass that him and Godard are both still making films at this point.) And that's not wrong. The actual film has all of the charm the script lacks: it looks gorgeous, and between the lead actors and Resnais's idiosyncratic directing the film manifests most of the charm its script tries for.

And that's all well and good, but a film cannot subsist on charm alone. It's no a long movie, but the back half felt like an eternity to me. If you like movies where people wander around Paris and talk about old movies, this one is for you. If you don't, this is pretty to look at, but it's best not to look beneath the surface.
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sschimel26 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this last night as the opening film of the NY Film Fest. It's the first Alain Resnais I've seen and it will also be my last. In this country, if a man behaved like this toward a woman, she'd get a restraining order against him, and he'd be in jail for stalking. And no one would be making supposedly funny movies about it. But besides the inappropriate tone of the movie, the script is horrible, and at least two of the actors seem miscast. André Dussollier's character is described as being about 50 (he's 64), and Anne Consigny, who plays his wife of supposedly 30 years, is only 46 (it's possible they've been married that long but not likely). Sabine Azema's character behaves in a totally irrational way that is likely to infuriate, and should, American women. When the movie ended, the applause was polite at best, but there was a mad rush for the exits, and the general discussion afterward was negative.
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Double espresso at this hour?
p-stepien28 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Potentially the swansong of French New Wave visionary Alain Resnais "Wild Grass" is a wild journey into the intuitive cinema cookbook, where various ingredients are hurled in seemingly random proportions. Sometimes the resultant pastry is delicious, other times barely edible. Throwing around his movie aficionado weight Resnais delivers a piece verging on farcical, pretentious, but ultimately with enough self-awareness to avoid ridicule.

A tale of two zany (but unforgivably underdeveloped) protagonists, who through a random mundane crossing of paths become almost neurotically obsessed with each other. 50 year old Georges (Andrei Dussollier), a tired man with a dark past (never revealed throughout the movie and the slight suggestions as to the nature of his mishaps just muddle the story) finds a stolen wallet belonging to 40-something Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azema), a fuzzy redhead dentist. Within it he gets infatuated with her picture in a pilot's license, which suggest certain frivolous freedom and a fulfilment of childhood fantasies. After returning the wallet (via the police) Georges starts compulsively stalking the woman, sending her letters, phoning her and in sheer anger slashing her tyres. Inexorably once Marguerite cuts this off by informing the police, she in turn becomes unstrung and overpowered by a drive to get to know the would-be stalker. Flung in the midst of all this is Georges wife, Marguerite's co-worker and a well-meaning police-officer. All leading to a misogynistic wet dream with a suitably cinephile double ending Fin.

All of the above placed within the confines of a Amelia-like narrator, who attempts to push forward the action and expand the context, but ultimately tires and dissuades attention. Characters themselves lack any foothold in real life, seemingly more like a conjecture imposed onto a movie reel (with grown-ups acting like crazed love-stricken teenagers on permanent entactogenic drives. Actions and reactions are borderline asinine (this includes everyone) detached from normalcy, not helped by the dissoluted plot, which forgoes attempts to build up character motivations. The motive of obsession seems to be the theme, but when a woman falls madly in love with a stalker, another female gets all gooey and blissful from being sexually assaulted, while his wife understandingly accepts all this unmistakeably points to pseudo-artistic masturbation of Lars von Trier proportion...

Adding to this Resnais' comedic jabs and nods the movie feels like extrapolated absurdity posing as serious nouvelle cinema. This movie actually ends in the la-la-land of blue skies and romantic endings, juxtaposed with Georges being unable to close his fly (zipper) after taking a pee-pee. Much too my frustration the viewer has to sit out through two appearances of the word FIN, before they actually fly off into the blue yonder...

Some of the experimentation during various shots was also pretty irritating, felt misplaced and added a further layer of ridicule.
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Fernando Stickel27 December 2009
This film lacks rhythm and is boring, almost as bad and boring as the last one, "Coeurs".

OK, I understand the concept of two strangers becoming entangled in something they didn't plan, but that idea alone is not sufficient to make a good film. The aviation side of the story could be much more explored, and the beautiful Spitfire does nothing more than just serving as bed for Mme. Muir. Finally, the whole story is implausible, it lacks coherence and interest. Alain Resnais should stop making films, in the same way that Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (102) should stop making architecture. Their time is long past...
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Kafkaesque, Imaginative and Aesthetic
Ilpo Hirvonen11 January 2011
Alain Resnais started as a French new wave director and is remembered for creating such classics as Hiroshima, mon amour (1959) and Last Year in Marienbad (1961). He often deals with the layers of memory, yearning, oblivion and death in man. He throws his characters into a story and sees what the fuss occurs. His latest film Les herbes folles or Wild Grass is a psychotic version of the conventional genre of romantic comedy. Les herbes folles is a new kind of comedy; it challenges the limitations of cinema and the fantastic imaginative narrative is something we haven't seen in decades.

A pickpocket steals a wallet of a woman. A man finds the wallet and since it has an ID card within he decides to return it to its owner. After a series of difficulties the woman gets her wallet but the man seems to be hoping for something more between them.

The characterization of the film is simplified but strong, it makes us question the role of a character in fiction. Marquerite (the woman) is purely a fictional figure: red haired dentist who loves flying. Georges (the man) is an ordinary suburban dad who has got a dangerously unstable personality. He thinks about murders and crimes, but is it all fantasy or could he actually do it? The character remains elusive, and I loved it.

Les herbes folles was Alain Resnais' first adaption from a novel, even that he has worked with many famous writers such as Marquarite Duras. Les herbes folles is based on a novel "L'Incident" by Christian Gailly. Alain Resnais has always adored "cheap" literature and the things he got from this small unknown novel amaze me. What I've heard is that Gailly's narrative is minimalist but the narrative of Les herbes folles in obviously the opposite. The 'mise-en-scene' is filled with precisely considered items that yet appear as ordinary furniture. An important addition Resnais made for the novel is the wild grass which grows from the gaps of the asphalt streets. Just as the grass so do the passions and desires of the characters run wild.

The visuality of Les herbes folles is imaginative and enchanting. Already in 1959 Resnais made innovative use of flashback in Hiroshima, mon amour and in Les herbes folles he mixes flashbacks, delusions and fantasies in a very unique, absurd way - overall the film is a courageously playful story. Both the editing and cinematography overwhelmed me they just make this a very aesthetic experience. The scene with the cops is full of close-up, stylized editing and quick zoom-ins and this absurd use of camera just reinforces the Kafkaesque in the entire scene.

Les herbes folles is a new beginning in a way, it's something Resnais has never done before and I hope we will see many great ones by him in the future as well. It's a film which plays around with cinema narrative with stylized editing and simplified characterization. In the end it grows out to be a mature antithesis for brainless romantic comedies and a wonderful aesthetic experience.
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The worst movie I have ever seen
pvernezze5 December 2010
Seriously, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of movies. Thousands of them. And this is the worst. Ever. Worse than Exorcist 2. Where to begin. It is illogical. Scenes in one part of the movie could be inserted anywhere in the film. This is because there is nothing resembling a coherent plot. And it has an incredibly stupid ending. And those are its strong points. This film insults the viewing audience. I wasted nearly two hours on my life on this. The only benefit to all of this is if I can possibly prevent others from wasting their precious time on this film. If I could give it a zero or a number in the negatives, I would.
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Much Ado About Nothing
Gotlostintranslation20 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe the fact that this is getting 6.4 out of 10 on this site is evidence of the forgettable non-impact of this film. I usually enjoy French films and the way they don't insult the viewer's intelligence and their ability to make you feel involved with the characters. That is really why I didn't enjoy this. Thoroughly forgettable, characters who you really don't care about - including a thoroughly unlikeable main male character and his wife who puts up with his obsessive tendencies- and a whimsical plot that really doesn't know where it is going. I had heard some good things about this before I watched it and then wondered why I had listened ! One to miss.
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