Published Sep 09, 2009When you're watching a cinematic sovereign like Alain Resnais, famous for his mid-century masterpieces Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961), you can't always expect to understand what you're watching. Les Herbes Folles certainly follows suit.
It's deceptively simple at first. Georges (André Dussolier), a middle-aged man with a questionable discomfort around police officers, finds a wallet in a parking lot. But in his efforts to return it to its owner, Marguerite (Sabine Azéma), he becomes engrossed by his desire to know her, to the point of obsession. He calls incessantly, writes letters — and then things start to get creepy.
You could call it a love story but then again, you can never really guess at what the protagonists are feeling. Love? Boredom? Heartburn? On top of that, characters like Georges' wife, Suzanne (Anne Consigny), and Marguerite's best friend, Josepha (Emmanuelle Devos), seem disconcertingly un-baffled by the odd relationship that's taking shape in front of them.
From tire slashing to drunk make-outs with strangers, the story gets unnecessarily bizarre for something that could have ended after the first 15 minutes. Maybe it's the way things develop from relatively reasonable to severely strange that makes Les Herbes Folles uncomfortable to watch; it could also be the soap-like synth score provided by Mark Snow. But the trouble with Resnais is that you never know if he's just pulling a fast one and having some fun at the tender age of 87. I mean, let's be serious. This guy has been making movies since the '40s — maybe he's testing us.
Resnais was awarded the lifetime achievement award for his work and exceptional contribution to the history of cinema this year at Cannes. But if you'd only seen this film, you'd most likely wonder why. (E1)