French filmmaker, Alain Resnais, is a legend. He was a key figure in the French “new wave” cinema period that emerged in the 1950’s and 60’s. Classics like HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR and LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD are not only some of the most influential films of all time but also personal favorites of mine as well. The man is also almost 90 years old. As impressive as it is that he was able to put a new film together at all, Resnais seems to have completely lost the plot.
His latest, LES HERBES FOLLES, starts promising enough. A woman (Sabine Azema, Resnais’s live-in girlfriend) is about to have a seemingly meaningless experience that will go on to change her life drastically. She buys some shoes she doesn’t need and has her purse stolen on her way home. A man (Andre Dussollier) finds her wallet discarded in a parking lot sometime later and returns it to the police. When the woman calls to thank the man for returning her wallet, he is disappointed that she does not want more from this exchange. He then stalks her and she in turn responds to his charming yet illegal advances. If this seems a stretch, that’s because it is.
LES HERBES FOLLES, is being lauded as a dreamlike experience that is as insightful as it is visually stimulating. Compliments like these characterize his earlier work perfectly but feel entirely misguided to me when applied to this new film. New wave films didn’t have to make sense at the time. They were just trippy, visual feasts that you could formulate your own opinions on as to what they were essentially saying. The effect does not work though in a contemporary setting. Watching these characters make move after senseless move is not only confusing but incredibly infuriating.