Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azéma) has very strange feet which normal, high street shoes do not fit, so she likes to visit a specialist footwear emporium in Paris where she can spend a while trying on shoes that are to her liking. One day she had been doing so yet when she emerged from the shop, walking away, her bag was snatched by a thief and she was left standing at a loss of what to do. She didn't have any money now, but she did still have the shoes she had bought so re-entered the shop and asked for a refund, planning to return for her purchase once she had her recent brush with crime sorted out. But the wallet inside the purse would provide the impetus for an odd new relationship...
Alain Resnais, the French filmmaker who was at once part of the Nouvelle Vague in the late fifties and early sixties and yet was unable to slot into any such category so easily, continued making movies well into his twilight years, right up until his death at ninety-one in fact, as many of his contemporaries seemed to have a habit of doing. However, while he could often be described as fashioning works which were impenetrable - at times, apparently, to himself as well as the audience - he never lost his love of life and that joie de vivre was all over Wild Grass, or Les herbes folles if you were French, which saw Resnais at his most playful, some would say willfully eccentric.
On paper this sounded like a high concept comedy where the concept was a stalking which developed into a full blown romance, yet even that did not do it justice as the experience of watching it was so difficult to get a handle on that it came across as an arch parody of romcoms, except these were romcoms from Mars Resnais was sending up. Or he could have been embracing the form so tightly that his passion for them resulted in a work which took leave of its senses, in a way that falling in love can do to people, and certainly does to Marguerite's admirer Georges Palet (André Dussollier), himself almost a spoof of the Hollywood cliché of the older star romancing the younger actress in their lightweight fictions. Dussollier really was getting on a bit by this time, but then again so was his director.
Georges may have a past as an uncaught serial killer judging by the insights we have into his mind, but nothing is ever made explicit, all we know is what we see playing out on the screen. When he finds Marguerite's discarded wallet which still contains her personal details, he wrestles with the dilemma of returning it himself or taking it to the police and allowing them to take care of it (Mathieu Amalric has a small role as a desk sergeant who discusses this with him), and finally settles on leaving nightly messages on her answering machine in an attempt to woo her. Marguerite turns out to be a dentist who must be making very good money in light of her fancy sports car (the tyres of which Georges slashes to get her attention), but she has more strings to her bow as we discover later when her other job as a pilot enters the plot.
Although Wild Grass is essayed with a more or less straight face - it's not really a comedy although elements are amusing enough to chuckle at - with its candy and neon colours and characters who behave as if trying to stave off an encroaching madness you could find yourself turned off by its sickly idiosyncrasy. The two lovers don't even meet till the final half hour, before which we have gotten to know Georges' wife Anne Consigny who has vast reserves of patience, and Marguerite's assistant Emmanuelle Devos who Georges also takes a fancy to, as if this was not absurd enough as it was, looking as he does like these women's great-grandfather. When the dentistry grows too difficult to concentrate on for Marguerite (cueing a queasy montage of patients reduced to agony in her chair) she decides a break to go back to piloting is in order, but the conniving Georges is ahead of her. With an ending which leaves everything up in the air (er...) thanks to an open trouser fly, this was not a sensible, play by the rules film, but for all its weirdness, you may find it refreshing. Or baffling. Music by Mark Snow.