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.