Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Renoir: Artists and Models, Fathers and Sons
Renoirs were no ordinary family. Yet,
not even they were spared the horrors of WWI.
At least the great painter’s middle son could convalesce amid the splendor
of his family’s Riviera home. The future
French auteur will meet his father’s last great model during his fateful
homecoming in Gilles Bourdos’s Renoir (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
to Renoir for potential modeling work, Andrée “Dédée” Heuschling finds an
estate frozen in a state of near paradise, staffed by a veritable harem of her
predecessors, doting on the arthritic artist.
However, old man Renoir does not rest easy. He still mourns his late wife, while he waits
for word of his two eldest sons injured on the battlefront. Yet, Heuschling has the perfect Renoir look,
inspiring him to begin painting outdoor nude studies once again. She also makes quite the impression on the
Impressionist’s son Jean when he returns home on medical leave.
on the narrative biography of Jacques Renoir (Pierre-Auguste’s great-grandson
and Jean’s great-nephew), Boudros’s film initially appears to be about the
artist in his twilight years, but steadily shifts its focus to Jean, the future
cinematic artist as a young man. Of
course, Heuschling links father and son, eventually serving as muse to both.
Renoir, Boudros elevates fine art and
evocative atmosphere high above messy dramatics. The resulting experience is quite a bit like
taking an afternoon nap in the French countryside. It is quite luxurious, but there is not much
to tell afterward. Nonetheless, Boudros
crafts an elegant period production, even enlisting Guy Ribes, a convicted
forger fresh out the big house, to recreate Renoir’s style and method.
Heuschling’s coquettish character deliberately remains something of cipher throughout
Renoir, cinematographer Mark Ping
Bing Lee’s lens absolutely loves Christa Théret, as do Ribes’ canvasses.
Audiences will certainly understand the “Renoir look” from her photogenic
turn. Vincent Rottiers largely carries
the dramatic load as Jean Renoir, creating a convincing portrait of a somewhat
confused young man trying to find his way in the world. Yet, Michel Bouquet, the crafty old veteran
thesp, eventually steals the film back for Pierre-Auguste with some wonderfully
subtle but touching scenes of a father coming to terms with his sons. However, Thomas Doret (from the Dardenne
Brothers’ The Kid with a Bike) never
really gets to stretch beyond the surly wild child as Renoir’s youngest son,
Claude (a.k.a. Coco).
is the sort of quiet but impeccably graceful
film French cinema lovers swoon over.
The combination of Renoir’s art, the lush natural beauty, Théret’s
figure, and even a spot of hot jazz are wonderfully seductive. Recommended for Francophiles and admirers of
Impressionism, Renoir opens this
Friday (3/29) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Labels: French Cinema, Jean Renoir