I found Resnais' latest effort every bit as baffling as his New Wave era films. This was only surprising because the reviews made it sound like Wild Grass would reveal a softer side to the philosophical puzzle-master. Apparently, he had set aside his heartless experiments to create something with more feeling, even some narrative. Not that I have never thought of Last Year at Marienbad or Hiroshima Mon Amour as heartless formalism at all. To me, they are deeply moving. Wild Grass may be masked in a narrative of unrequited love (albeit, a circuitous one), but it is still filled with Resnais' calling cards, and then some. Notably, when each character is introduced, it takes a good five minutes for us to see their face; we are stuck in their point of view for a while, within their actions, before we really get a sense of who they are. Is the purpose of this to set up a fusion between character and viewer? Who really knows. In addition, there are many points of view to juggle. There is an omniscient narrator carrying us along, as well as internal monologues, and a camera that sometimes drifts aimlessly as if it has become bored of its subjects.
I honestly don't have enough time to spend on this as I would like (I'm currently taking advantage of friends' hospitality until the 1st when my apartment becomes mine). But here's what I've got:
This film is mesmerizing for many reasons. The characters are too realistic to be understood; they rave and react like real people. Just when you think you know them, they unleash some new idiosyncrasy that tears their little world apart. Like its characters, the tone of the film is meandering and erratic. By turns it is unspeakably sad, hilarious like no other recent film has been, and so haunting that you want to cry (and probably will). Quickly, you are uprooted from whatever emotion you are experiencing, and feel as ridiculous as the protagonists when they make small, but irrevocable mistakes (like mailing a silly letter that cannot be retrieved). The shortest possible synopsis of this movie would be as follows: Georges Palet (Andre Dussollier) finds a wallet that belongs to Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azema). He sees her picture and becomes obsessed by his own idea of who she is. He contacts her and when he is dismissed, he reacts almost violently. The wilder he becomes, the more fascinated and infatuated Muir becomes.
Further emphasizing the genre-weaving pastiche of the film, the score was done by Mark Snow, the X-Files composer. Actually, some of the music was ripped directly from the show. (Finally, some noticeable good has come out of my total knowledge of the X-Files!) The music often creates an eerie effect, particularly when it comes to the construction of Georges as a character. One of the themes I recognized from the show plays as he is finding the wallet. It is a "scary moment" theme. Unfortunately, my knowledge isn't quite deep enough to recollect the episode, not like that would help anyone else. Georges might be schizophrenic; he might be dangerous; he might just be plain strange, but we never really find out. The jarring music makes it even more apparent that he is a phantasm, his nature subject to the filmmaker's portrayal and the viewer's discernment (and in this vein, another element to note, aside from music, is color). He is just a shifting element in Resnais' dream, and Georges, who is made known to us by a combination of his own visions and thoughts, has little idea of who he is supposed to be, either. This makes him both a relatable and ominous figure.
Resnais is still steeped in imagination and memory, but this time he seems to have drawn on the cinema as both a source, and a vessel for his themes. The cinema is sort of a Pandora's Box of expectations, and here, Resnais has denied them all, demonstrating how much human consciousness relies on the dogma of cinema to propel itself forward, especially when it comes to love. A trip to the cinema frames the pinnacle of the narrative. Georges little day dreams, pictured in a hazy little bubble next to his head, are cinematic, as daydreams often are. And of course, however hopeful, they are nothing like reality. Dreams are silly when brought to light, and it is fruitless, maybe even deleterious, to expect reality to match up with a vision. That's how planes are brought down, and movies made. That is why anything might happen when you walk out of the cinema, but what actually happens is that you've got popcorn in your shirt pockets, and you can't remember where you parked the car.