Wild Grass

by Alain Resnais, cinematography by Eric Gautier

With Andre Dussolier, Sabine Azema, Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric

French release : November 4, 2009

For our second collaboration (after Hearts released in 2006), Alain Resnais offered me the film Wild Grass (the title is his), which refers to those blades of grass that manage to grow in a crack in the asphalt of the street or in a stone wall, where there should not be any life at all. Somewhat echoing his characters, who fall madly in love, without knowing each other...

"I shoot to see how it will turn out", Resnais was fond of telling me. This film was continuously under experimental construction ... Whether it be the complex, contradictory, unexpected feelings of his characters, or the very astounding and audacious risks of his mise en scène.

An exciting job for a director of photography. For this very colorful movie ( one of Resnais’ basic choices), I continued the color work I undertook for Hearts. But this time, I wanted to avoid the flashy and kitsch side of colored gels (which served very well in a movie where everything was appearance, illusions, transparency...). That is why I opted for a DI, which allowed me to work the color rendering much more subtly, and make the colors duller when necessary. My reference was the Americans comics of the 1940-50s that Resnais loves so much.

Post-production at Digimage has been invaluable. The professionalism, organization, the technology (in cooperation with Arane Lab for photochemical) were impeccable. And it is a quiet, friendly place, where people still speak with passion about cinema. A special thank you for the friendship of Thomas Vergallo, and of course for the talent of the colorist, Isabelle Julien.

Resnais wanted a very airy camera, "floating" in space. There is a lot about airplanes in this film, and in particular a Spitfire... There many high shots, and crane moves. And a lot of Steadicam : Kareem La Vaulée operated these shots. He has a wonderful presence on a set, he listens, and correctly interprets complex plans ...

With Alain, we worked on small jumps in time (which he called syncopations, as in jazz), on not matching or matching badly (lighting, movement...), and on the movement of lights on the sound stage... And if the visual style still often plays with glamor, as with Hearts, the image usually has much more contrast, and the characters often find themselves in the dark ... Strangeness and eeriness are very present in Wild Grass.

Filming took place mainly on a sound stage in Arpajon studio, in the always incredibly inspiring sets of Jacques Saulnier. But multiple locations forced us to also shoot on location, which we had to match with a very formal image, that had been set to be very "theatrical" (an adjective that Resnais fully adopts). So our motto was to avoid any naturalism, and seek the artificial...

Text by Eric Gautier

Translated by Benjamin B