Movies: Wild Grass * * *
Now a doughty 88, Alain Resnais is one of the last lions standing of the nouvelle vague, a movement he may only have been on the periphery of but to which he made a considerable contribution.
Throughout his career, he has been engaged by visual style and drawing attention to the artifice of cinema and storytelling, and he's up to his old tricks here.
In Les Herbes Folles, the superb character actor André Dussollier plays George, an affluent suburban man in late-middle age who appears to have a deeply ambivalent attitude to women.
In a hesitant, self-correcting voiceover, he makes veiled references to a possible criminal past, and his rage against womankind never seems far from the surface. He is married, but one suspects not entirely happily, because when he finds a stolen wallet in a car park, he becomes fascinated by its female owner.
She is Marguerite (played by Resnais regular Sabine Azéma), a glamorous middle-aged dentist who is also an accomplished amateur pilot. When George begins to pursue her, she is initially alarmed, but they then enter a tense cat-and-mouse courtship, which seems bound to end in trouble.
With the help of a fine cast that includes Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric, Resnais builds his drama stylishly and with considerable skill.
But every time it seems on the point of gaining momentum, he throws in abrupt plot twists, which seem to make a nonsense of his characters' integrity and laugh at our expectations of meaningful conclusions.
This may irritate the bejesus out of some, but no one can argue that Resnais has not remained consistent.