“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
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
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
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,