ADRIAN MARTIN ON ALAIN RESNAIS' WILD GRASS
Adrian Martin begins his Sight & Sound review of Alain Resnais' Wild Grass with the following:
It starts like a Brian De Palma movie, in a mode of full exhilaration. Shots of feet take us to a chic shopping centre. A voice-over informs us that a woman – Marguerite (Sabine Azéma), whose face will not be fully seen from the front until six and half minutes into the film – has special shoe requirements, and this specialness is what will kick off ‘the incident’ (the title of Christian Gailly’s novel) at the heart of the narrative. Point-of-view rules, but on a split register: both the character’s sensorial experience of her surroundings, and the camera’s insistent display of its own, peculiar way of seeing things. Sudden bursts of slow-motion linger on the saleswoman who thrills Marguerite (it is her secret), and eventually on the roller-blading thief who snatches her purse. Mark Snow’s musical score soars. Within the shoe shop itself, we could almost be watching a scene from Sex and the City: a rapid but luxuriant montage surveys shelves, brands, boxes.
Straight away, Alain Resnais’ masterful new film announces its proudly mixed-up character. Resnais is a director who has always complicated drama with comedy, realism with surrealism, philosophy with pop culture – and vice versa. Invention and surprise are his watchwords: as the French critic François Thomas once remarked, Resnais’ gambit as an artist is to outrage or confound viewers at the start of a film, but hold them in their seats to the very end.
RESNAIS AS OVERLOOKED INSPIRATION FOR DE PALMA
At the start of De Palma's 1962 short film Woton's Wake, the camera briefly pans over a set of books on a shelf. Included on that shelf amongst published screenplays by Ingmar Bergman, film theory books by Sergei M. Eisenstein, V.I. Pudovkin, and others, are separate published screenplays for two early films by Resnais: Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year At Marienbad. Armed with this fact, one can detect a seemingly conscious (though perhaps subconscious) strain of Marienbad in De Palma's early feature Murder a la Mod. The influence of Resnais on De Palma's work is worth investigating, especially now that it has come full circle to where a major critic sees De Palma in late-period Resnais.