Sublimity is a rare experience for any human being due to its characteristic state of mind. Yet in the French film "Renoir," sublimity is achieved through the eyes of the famous French painter whose later years are captured in picturesque shots and seamless cinematography.
This French film, first released with subtitles in the U.S. in April, is made up of an entirely French cast. It begins with the death of Jean Renoir's wife, Aline, who left him with their three sons: two fighting in WWI and the other too young for war and too wise for school. A few weeks before her death, Aline had met a local girl who she encouraged to see Renoir in his studio.
Thus the audience meets Andree, an aspiring actress and the main character. Feisty, stubborn and incredibly arrogant, Andree poses nude for Renoir, or as his house maids and family calls him, "the boss." Although her strong opinions and personality get her in trouble with Renoir and the maids at his home, she remains his model throughout the end of his career. The film's plot, although slow and not thoroughly developed, provides the audience with an intimate perspective on the later years of the renowned French painter's life.
The screenplay does not revolve around Jean Renoir himself, but focuses more on the relationship between his stubborn model and his son, Pierre-Auguste. Pierre, who returned home due to an injury that occurred in war, met Andree in a peculiar way, while she was posing for his father. That peculiar nature remains key to their odd relationship; she ends up manipulating him and taking advantage of his wealth due to his father's profession. The first hour of the film moves slowly, yet director Gilles Bourdos does a fine job of embedding art within each shot.
As Renoir paints his fantastic paintings, Bourdos captures the scenic French countryside with beautiful light and overwhelmingly extraordinary nature sets. Most of the film takes place outside, but the important plot moments occur indoors.Many characters are introduced to the story, yet many of those same characters are left without endings and are forgotten by the last few scenes. With the film being based on true events in Renoir's life, it's obvious that there were problems in what to keep in the film and what to leave out.
In many scenes though, viewers are left confused about certain characters and their purpose. The acting in this case doesn't improve that situation, but doesn't hinder its development either. While the first three quarters of the film could be condensed to one, the last quarter is where the audience is completely invested in the story and the inevitable ending. Once Pierre decides to re-enlist to the army, his father and Andree (now his girlfriend) are disappointed in his decision. Andree more for selfish reasons, since the couple promised each other that they will begin making films once the war ends, when really she wants attention and a career and only Pierre's father's money can get her there. Her foul attitude and misdemeanor made her the villain of the film, while Pierre remained the hero. Foreign films are difficult to come across, especially in small cities like Knoxville.
Although "Renoir" was longer than it needed to be, it acts as more of an art cinema piece where plot is second to cinematography and mise-en-scene. By paying homage to the painter's family and his later years, Bourdos' film accurately displays an appreciation for the extraordinary work Jean Renoir created, work that still graces museums around the world.Renoir's art is sublimity in itself and this film captures a fragment."Renoir" is currently being shown at Downtown West near West Town Mall.