Thursday, May 2, 2013

Renoir [2012]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoSunTimes (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Chicago SunTimes (K. MacMillan) review

Renoir [2012] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Gilles Bourdos along with Jérôme Tonnerre based on work by French cinematographer Jacques Renoir) is a French (English subtitled) biopic / period piece set in 1915 (during World War I) that focuses on the relationship the famed but aging Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (played in the film by Michel Bouquet), his wounded but soon to be returning to the war son Jean Renoir (played in the film by Vincent Rottiers) who later became a famous French and later Hollywood director [IMDb], and the elder Renoir's model and later the younger Renoir's first wife, Andrée Heuschling (played by Christa Theret) who later went by the actress/stage name Catherine Hessling [IMDb].

So much takes place though at a leisurely pace amid the natural beauty of the elder Pierre-August Renoir's farm/retreat outside of the town of Cagnes-Sur-Mer along the coast of Southern France even as the world that they had all known seemed (at least in some sense) to be very much in danger of crumbling due to the War raging to the North. 

Indeed, the War and the attitudes of the two Renoirs toward it seems to be at the center of the film:  Both the elder and the younger Renoirs are resigned to it but approach it in different ways.

The younger, Jean, who entered the war as a cavalry officer and was grievously wounded once, is hurrying to heal so that he could return to fight again (he eventually does, entering the Air Corps which wouldn't require him to have to run much ...).

The older, Pierre-August, who had spent his life painting gentle, rolling, peaceful pictures, even refusing during the whole of his life to use the color black in any of his paintings, accepts the reality of the war and even the possibility of the political destruction of his country.  However, he refused to paint anything other than what he had always painted -- natural beauty ... with an occasional woman, clothed or less so (yes, this is an R-rated film with nudity though no more than what one would expect to see at an Impressionist museum...), occasionally thrown in.  The need for a model then would be the reason for the presence of the young pretty Andrée at Renoir's retreat and really of a whole entourage of other women who Pierre-August often kept on (working in the kitchen or around the house) when they got older so they had a place to stay after their modeling years had come to an end. 

The horror of the War playing out to the North is not at all hidden in the film.  Jean had been grievously wounded in the leg.  We, the viewers, are shown the wound.  We also see Pierre-Auguste's other military aged son, Pierre, come back with a WW I era prosthetic arm, three metal claws and all.  We also see other wounded soldiers, faces burned by flames, gun powder (and worse...), missing limbs, hobbling on crutches along the various roads of the area.  It's all there, in spades really.

What Pierre-Auguste refused to do (what Pablo Picasso would do later) was to paint them.  Instead, he chose to continue to paint fields, flowers and lovely, somewhat rotund (thus cared for, not starving) young and middle aged women, all of which/whom would continue to exist no matter who won the conflict up North.

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