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  • Jay DiPietro


    Wild Grass

    Dull blade

    Alain Resnais' "Wild Grass" is a could-have-been-hilarious screwball comedy that fizzles as it nears its non-conclusion.


    Here's how you make a French film. First, make up a character. Next, make up another character. A man and a woman, let's say. Next, let them meet. Now, wait for two hours. See if something will happen. Nope, guess not. End of movie.

    Original title: Les Herbes Folles.
    Directed by: Alain Resnais.
    Written by: Alex Reval, Laurent Herbiet.
    Adapted from a novel by: Christian Gailly.
    Cast: André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, Emmanuelle Devos, Anne Consigny, Mathieu Amalric, Vladimir Consigny..
    Cinematography: Eric Gautier.
    Edited by: Hervé de Luze.
    In French with English subtitles.
    Walter Reade Theater
    Lincoln Center, 65th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam
    (212) 875-5600

    New York Film Festival, 2009
    • Overview
    • Antichrist
    • The Art of the Steal
    • Broken Embraces
      • Police, Adjective
    • Precious
    • Wild Grass
    Alain Resnais' "Wild Grass," refreshingly, is not that movie. It is both a better one and a worse one.

    "Wild Grass" starts with two characters and has a lot more fun with them than is normally allowed. A past-middle-aged, flamingly-coiffed dentist/pilot named Margeurite is blissfuly shopping for upscale accoutrements when her purse is stolen on the street. Her reaction is strangely backwards — she goes home and has a bath. "The police department can wait," she tells herself. "They must have a thousand thefts a day."

    Her wallet, emptied of cash, ends up under the car tire of a past-middle-aged married gentleman named Georges, whose dignified appearance belies the thoughts in his head. He's in the middle of wondering if he should return the wallet when two young ladies happen to distract his attention and his inner serial killer interrupts his thoughts.

    Wild Grass  
    "I should murder them both!" he says in his head, resenting their unavailable beauty. "What am I thinking? Stay calm! Stay calm! Not like last time!"

    Finding the wallet propels these two into a hilarious non-illicit non-affair in which person A is not speaking to person B while B writes obsessive teen-crush letters to A, until they switch places and the obsession starts all over again the other way. Police are alerted, excuses are made, denials given, people stalked, letters sent, messages left in the middle of the night.

      Wild Grass
    Up to this point, funny, original, surprising — A-plus. (That's an exaggeration. A-minus.) But to reinforce the point: It was a movie about two off-kilter people entwined in an embarrassingly obsessive non-relationship.

    About two-thirds of the way through, that whole story peters out, they lose interest in each other — and it's about what? Their separate, ordinary lives. Dentistry. Home improvement. Driving in cars. Flying planes. (Or really, just hanging around the airport.) Instead of accelerating toward a madcap conclusion to story #1, the movie yawns and goes in search of story #2, which isn't there.

    It finally ends with a ridiculous development based on a stupid joke that could have been the ending to an episode of "South Park," where they would have at least made it rudely funny. In this case, it's just blandly misconceived. It's such a squandered opportunity, because the setup has been so much fun. This is just an atrocious job by Resnais and his writers, who lost their nerve and trashed what could have been a terrific screwball comedy.

    OCTOBER 1, 2009

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