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Cannes 2009: Nouvelle Spitfire ("Wild Grass," Resnais)

Some may remember the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for the ephemeral brouhaha of Antichrist, but time will be most understanding of all to Wild Grass, the new masterpiece by Alain Resnais.  It has breathed life not just into the festival but into cinema itself, a true, effervescent delight as sad, hilarious, and wonderful as can be imagined, which is exactly the point.  It is the ultimate Resnais film, an entire story, an entire cast of characters, and entire candy-colored film world all pitched as speculation.  MaybeIf.  Perhaps.  It could be. Why not?

Above all a dance, a dream of sadness and a wish for fantasy, a pickpocketed wallet draws a forlorn married man (André Dussollier) to a lonely unmarried woman (Sabine Azéma), the possibilities of romance flitting between the chance that chance has put two strangers in strange contact with one another.  It is the most melancholy Hitchcock film, the wise, post-irony comedy he never made, a thriller cum romance cum elegy with the bravura whip-pans, crane shots, and crash zooms of a De Palma film, told (with a wink) with the humor of the 1930s and the insight of an 86 year old master.  It is a menagerie of all past Resnais dove-tailing through the branching possibilities of fiction, imagination and possibility opening the void before us, and filling it with equal parts horror and delight.

Our hero is a killer (perhaps), a philanderer (could be), a happily married man (why not?), a fiction maker (definitely); in short, like the rest of us, he is a what if kind of guy. Dussollier, in an extraordinary performance that suggests a maniac as much as it does a lonely romantic, stalks Azéma through letters and messages, forcing on her a fantasy if not of his mind, than of the film's.  Narrated by an anonymous man with access to everyone's thoughts and an eventual part to play in this film fogged over with a haze that blurs the boundaries between the darkness and the light, tragedy and comedy, Wild Grass roves and grows from flight.  Flight not just of our wallet woman's Sundays spent at the aerodrome, but flights of fancy above all else, swathing the world an artificial neon-tinged miasma that must be a dream, one that feels like silks running through your fingers and looks like dissolved satin.  This look—also to be found in the jukebox insides of Private Fears in Public Places—equates all things, this auteurs' instrumental explorations of time and memory taken the Nth degree, where anything can happen in a mad, sad, deliciously malleable world vacated by our old, stolid understandings of time's passage, of events’ linearity, our consciousness' limits, and the separation of fiction and life.

It could be the most generous film ever made, since anything is possible, and that possibility is as joyous in its romantic whimsy as it is a mournful in the complete uncertainty of every moment and sensation.  And to embrace these sides of life's equation—and in equal parts!—one simply stands in awe not of Resnais' understanding but of his realization.

Not being able to see this right away is the biggest reason I’m bummed that I didn’t make it to Cannes this year. Always knew this would be the case! Can’t wait…
Why is Christian Gailly, that inspired this fim, not even mentionned?
I’m not familiar with Gailly or his novel, unfortunately!
NE1
A perfect summation: “It is the ultimate Resnais film, an entire story, an entire cast of characters, and entire candy-colored film world all pitched as speculation.”

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