“Wild Grass” & “The Father of My Children”
 
            “Wild Grass” is one of those unenviable movies that seems so amateurish and pointless that it even loses the charm of being French.  Even taking into account the secondhand nature of viewing the subtitles, we’re left wondering for every minute but the last one where this snail-paced story is going.
            A middle-aged woman buys a pair of shoes.  Afterwards, her purse is stolen, so she returns the pair of shoes for a refund so she can have some cash.  An older man finds her wallet in a parking garage, and at first calls her to return it, then decides to give it to the desk clerk at the police station instead.
            Right there is a disconnect for an American viewing audience.  Even in a small-town police station, it’s difficult to envision a crusty police triage spending an inordinate amount of time with this man, gently encouraging him to state his business, even following him outside----then actually handling the return of the wallet and crediting Mr. Nice Guy with the good deed.
            But he’s actually more of a dirty old man who thinks this might be a great opportunity for an illicit liaison, so he obsesses about contacting this poor lady, implying that there must be some cosmic connection here, some part of karma that’s going to bring them together.  She, understandably, considers him a weirdo, and even talks to his wife about him, who seems mysteriously blasé about the whole incident.  Once, we catch a glimpse of his ennui----he’s without a job, and his wife rushes off to work, barking orders at him as if he’s the house boy or something (“Paint the trim.  Mow the lawn.  Fix the door.”)  In one sense, who wouldn’t need some affirmation after that kind of spousal treatment?  Still, it’s hard to feel sorry for him, because he reveals some of his inmost thoughts to us, in which he really is a perverted voyeur, despite having a grown daughter who’s married (no fool like an old fool).
            Somehow the unwanted attention becomes flattering, and she actually makes an overture to contact him, after telling him to get lost more than once, even sending her business partner (they’re both dentists).  But wait, now the old lecher puts a move on her, too, which is received with some enthusiasm.  Now we’ve got an even stranger set of dynamics, which perhaps goes to show what happens when you throw together lonely people with too much time on their hands.
            It just feels creepy.  There’s nothing charming about any of these characters.  Yes, it’s a different atmosphere than the typical Hollywood fare, but there are a lot more substantive foreign films than this one.  Like “The Father of My Children,” for instance.
It, too, is French (and thus subtitled for English speakers, except when they forget, like when they’re showing the children looking at television and don’t translate it).  American audiences won’t recognize any of these actors, either, but the quality is much greater, and the script more inherently engaging.  A very busy independent film producer tries to hold it together in his work, where the stress and pressure continue to mount, even while he juggles family time with a beautiful, supportive wife, and lovely, playful children.  To say much more about it would give away too much of the plot, but French films don’t necessarily follow the Hollywood formulas (action adventure, romantic comedy, animated, teen, pre-teen, adult comedy).  You’re not sure where this is headed.  But that’s what makes the viewing interesting.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas