Friday, July 2, 2010

Wild Grass

Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad, with a screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet, was a rite-of-passage film for anyone who fell in love with European art cinema in the ‘60s. In his latest film, Wild Grass, the 88-year-old Resnais returns to the visual beauty of objects—shoes, pianos, watches, the surfaces the camera vivisects so memorably in Marienbad—but this time the notion is one of ingestion. A striking red-headed dentist named Marguerite Muir, who is also a flyer, is robbed of her purse. An older married man, George Palet, finds her wallet and in returning it to her becomes obsessed with her existence. The obsession involves memory, since he’s always been transfixed by aviation. But his desire to serve her or pay homage to her has the quality of devouring. He writes letters, phones her incessantly, and finally slashes the tires of her car in order to prevent her from going anywhere. However, when she finally relents and allows him to know her, he ends up having sex with her best friend Josepha, and finally banishes her from his house. It is almost ridiculous to compare Wild Grass to Bergman’s Persona, since the tone of the two movies is so wildly different, but there is a similar reversal upon which the drive of the whole film hinges. Palet (palette?) probes Marguerite, but it is Marguerite who, taking a cue from her profession, ultimately does the drilling. 

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