Wild Grass (Les herbes folles, France/Italy, Alain Resnais, 2009)
Alain Resnais is a veteran of French cinema, and Wild Grass is only the second of his films that I've seen, the other being his previous film, Coeurs/Private Fears in Public Places. I get the sense that this unconventional film-maker might be an acquired taste. He has a fascination with artifice, not afraid to ignore cinematic conventions.
My initial impressions of Wild Grass were that the film assumes a god perspective. Seemingly ordinary events occur that may have greater consequences. We get different perspectives of the protagonists with both an all-knowing narrator as well as the ramblings of a protagonist's thoughts. It's an interesting observation, because our thoughts are usually uncensored compared to our words. I was initially afraid that the film would be full of these crazy, internal monologues. Thankfully, Resnais uses it as an establishing device, to let us know what kind of person we're dealing with.
Wild Grass is not concerned with the big issues per se. Rather, the film focuses on small details, the banal, and demonstrates how even minor events can have major ramifications. It's all a matter of perspective. Maybe this is a reflection of his age (he's in his late 80s), though it's something I relate to.
There's little attempt by Resnais to maintain a semblance of reality. The personal interactions are quite absurd, almost surreal. Yet somehow there are, beneath the dry and understated humour, some quite profound human observations. I couldn't help but make a connection to José Luis Guerín's In the City of Sylvia. Stylistically and aesthetically, they're very different films, but both are concerned with the duality of simulataneous desire for and fear of human connection. This theme struck me very strongly upon seeing each film, because it's a theme or issue I ponder very much myself.
I think we all crave a deeper sense of connection to others. We sit in cafes or walk down the street. Maybe we see someone and think that person looks interesting, or attractive in one way or another. I was having this very conversation with a couple of strangers down Degraves St. in the city just a couple of days ago.
Maybe we reach out. Maybe there's reciprocation, maybe not. Maybe there's indifference, or rejection. Maybe the other person is outwardly cold but inwardly craving the same sort of connection, a spiritual yearning perhaps. This human duality fascinates me, and is what I like most about this Resnais film. Wild Grass is funny, romantic and thought-provoking. I don't have a full handle on where Resnais is coming from, but seeing this film, I'm keen to see more of his back catalogue.