STAGE & SPECTACLE
Three Films by Jean Renoir
Review by Ed Nguyen
Set *** 1/2
the great masters of French cinema, few have had as lustrous a pedigree as Jean
Renoir's. Born in 1894, he was the
second son of the world-renowned impressionist painter Auguste Renoir.
Jean Renoir's childhood was filled with numerous memorable visits from
his father's contemporaries, many art exhibits and galleries, and hours of
artistic self-exploration and expression. Renoir
as a child was even a frequent model for his famous father's portraits.
this creatively-liberated upbringing, Renoir was predestined for a career in the
art world. His fervently visual and
creative instinct would eventually find its life's calling during the First
World War when, after a serious injury, Renoir occupied his long and dull hours
of convalescence watching movies. It
was during this period that Jean Renoir developed a passion for the motion
picture, a passion that would soon find him directing his own movies.
the war's conclusion, Renoir returned to his father's studios.
He promptly fell in love with his father's model Andrée Heuchling, and
they would marry in 1920. Shortly thereafter, Renoir set about directing films to
advance the acting career of his young wife.
Renoir's first film, La Fille de
l'Eau (1925), displayed elements of his developing style - his passion for
nature, his poetic eye, and a deep sense of visual realism.
The film also featured his wife in the starring role, and she would
remain his leading lady until his sound pictures of the 1930's.
sound proved to be a significant stumbling block for many directors at the time,
Renoir was able to incorporate this new film technology into his spontaneous,
free style of filmmaking. La
Chienne (1931) would prove to be Renoir's first great "talkie,"
and many of his films during this decade, the French golden age of cinema,
featured explorations of human relationships and humanistic themes.
Ironically though, Renoir's finest and most personal film of this period,
The Rules of the Game (1939), was a
dismal and despised failure upon its initial release.
Today, it is recognized as one of the greatest films ever made.
due to the film's disastrous box office performance, Renoir would not direct
another French film for over a decade. Renoir
moved to America during the Second World War, though his experiences with
Hollywood were not particularly happy ones.
He summarized his American period as such: "They represent seven
years of unrealized works and unrealized hopes, and seven years of deceptions
was on this sour note that Renoir would abandon Hollywood, finally finding
renewed arenas of expression in his poetic and beautiful Indian film The
River (1951). Experiencing the
thrill of complete creative freedom for the first time in years, Renoir was
re-invigorated and at last decided to make his return to European cinema.
first three films of this second European period, The Golden Coach (1953), French
Cancan (1955), and Elena and her Men
(1956), were all considerably different from his 1930's French films.
Light-hearted, cheerful, and generally uplifting, these three films
revealed a happier Renoir indulging in a tribute to the world of the stage play
and musical. Together, these three
films are now viewed as a trilogy celebrating the spectacle of the theatrical
the first time ever, all three films have been assembled together in a DVD
collection. Entitled Stage
& Spectacle: Three Films by Jean Renoir, this set brings together three
films of dazzlingly gorgeous Technicolor images, jubilant song-and-dances, and a
joie de vivre that is unmistakably French.
While not as profound as Renoir's earlier works, these films are
nevertheless enjoyable for the craftsmanship of their productions and the
luxurious beauty of their production values.
The Golden Coach
Elena and Her Men