Wild Grass, or as it’s known in France, Les herbes folles, certainly kept me on my toes. You want to know why? Because the movie is completely immune to genre classification. The beauty of the film is that although it’s absurd and dadaist to an almost irritating degree, it retains elements of hope and becomes satisfying because it keeps you guessing as to its true intentions.
The film itself concerns a single incident (the book it’s based on, by Christian Gailly, is called L’Incident) wherein a woman’s purse is stolen and found by an aging retiree named Georges Palet. Georges is at once both completely harmless and entirely batsh*t insane. He harbors some latent feelings of violent sexuality towards pretty much any and all women who aren’t his wife, and also really, really likes old school airplanes. So when he finds this wallet, belonging to one Marguerite Muir, and discovers that she is not only attractive, but pilots as a hobby, I expected a full-on romantic-obsession thriller to unfold very neatly.
Not so. Because yes, he stalks her, slashes her tires, writes her letters and needs to be told off by the police, but at some point, the tide turns. Against all sense, Marguerite starts to like him back. Or at least is intrigued enough to want to approach him repeatedly and forget her entire life and job in order to daydream about him. Her partner at the dentist office she co-runs tries to make her snap out of it, and then falls for old Georges too! What a fox, am I right? Trust me, it is just as wildly unreasonable as I make it sound.
Visually, the film is very lush in use of color schemes and lighting. The filters leave you wondering if the entire thing isn’t perhaps some kind of dream sequence. Marguerite’s flat is everything you wish you had in an 80’s style studio apartment. Every so often, the camera shifts from the moment to moment activities of the characters to moving shots taken of (drumroll) wild, green grass. And when Marguerite and George finally come face to face, it’s after Marguerite has been awaiting Georges’s exit through the gates of a picturesque early 20th century style cinema.
I thought my favorite part of the movie was going to be the moment in which, when Georges goes to give the wallet to the police, the police are having a party in the interrogation room and literally act as though Georges has interrupted something very important. They even offer Georges drinks. Rather than be completely amused (or bemused) by their behavior, Georges freaks out and runs away. You get the distinct impression that Georges had some shady past history with the law, and I started to wonder if he wasn’t some kind of ex-mobster, smuggler, crook, etc, because you never understand how exactly he gets to live in the huge house that he owns with his smoking hot young wife.
Speaking of. Like many movies that involve extramarital affairs, George completely ignores his smoking hot wife. Initially, I kept asking myself, was that hot blonde lady roaming around the house and telling him what to do Georges’s wife? Or his daughter? Why are the english subtitles not mentioning the word “mom” when Georges’s children are speaking to this woman? Why is she with him when she can do much better? And most importantly, why does Marguerite end up befriending her and inviting her to her escapades with Georges?
The movie concerns reality versus borderline deranged expectations. The narration changes from the voice over of an unseen narrator to the actors themselves revealing their own thoughts, so it’s never quite clear who is setting the standard for what is truly going on. At some point, you learn to roll with it. The climax of the movie is when Marguerite takes both Georges and his wife Suzanne to the air field. Before they take off, Georges and Marguerite finally have their “movie kiss”, and you see a huge “FIN” flash across the screen, as a joke, with equally silly sound effects. But that’s not all! Both Georges, Marguerite, and Suzanne actually do take off in the plane, leaving Marguerite’s friend on the ground. While up in the plane, Georges is given the controls, and during the critical moment in which he should be paying attention to keeping the plane going, is utterly distracted by his unzipped fly (the jokes, they just write themselves).
At this point during my viewing of the film, I was ready to just be okay with the ending. So it was a romantic-thriller a little off its rocker, and had some quirky french sensibilities (In what American movie does the spouse in the extramarital affair befriend the new love interest?). But then comes the real ending.
Remember how I mentioned what I thought was my favorite part? Well after Georges loses control, you never quite find out what happens to the plane, and the scene instead shifts to a farmer, whom we do not know, and then his wife, whom we do not know, and then finally their child, who very nonchalantly asks, “Maman, when I’m a cat, will I be able to eat Cat Munchies?” – the end.
So what was the movie about? About wild grass that grows into our lives and connects them? About the mundanity of life? About accepting your own death? About cat munchies? The point is, there isn’t really a point. Or at least that’s what I thought. Catch it on Netflix if you’re so inclined, and maybe you can tell me.