Alain Resnais' Wild Grass has plenty of fans—it copped an award at Cannes in 2009—but I don't see what they see. The 88-year-old filmmaker's latest is an insufferable exercise in cutie-pie modernism, painfully unfunny and precious to a fault. Georges (Resnais regular André Dussollier) finds a bright red wallet stolen from Marguerite (Sabine Azéma, the director's reliably irritating muse). A middle-aged man with a suburban chateau and a beautiful, adoring wife, Suzanne (Anne Consigny), Georges has an active fantasy life with a sense of indignation to match; he becomes fixated to the point of stalking the mysterious Marguerite. Especially as played by Azéma, she is a fanciful creature—a maladroit dentist and weekend aviatrix. Marguerite initially rebuffs, then pursues her admirer in a tedious dance of attraction/avoidance scarcely relieved by the movie's fatuously self-mocking narrator and full panoply of coy narrative tricks. Irrationality rules, but Suzanne's acceptance of Georges' foibles and his passion for Marguerite pale beside Resnais' devotion to the actress in the role. Azéma's hoarse quaver is extolled in the movie as uniquely charming; her mangy orange bouffant hairdo, less quirky than wildly unflattering, suggests a road-show production of The Lion King. When, soon after the zillionth exasperating view of Azéma's desiccated dandelion coiffure, she appeared in a tailored marching jacket, I entertained myself by mentally casting her as a passé British rocker, a degenerate dandy debauching her way to the Greek.
Sara Forestier brings a little light to Resnais' muddled proceedings.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., July 23–Thurs., July 29. Rated PG. 104 minutes.