Archive for June 2, 2019

The Sunday Intertitle: A Right Nana

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on June 2, 2019 by dcairns

Renoir’s wife irl, Catherine Hessling is introduced as the title character of NANA (1926). Titles are by “Mme Le Blond Zola,” apparently.

This is the most impressive NANA I’ve seen, more engaging than the Dorothy Arzner/Anna Sten, that’s for damn sure. (Hollywood and Goldwyn robbed Anna of the considerable appeal she exuded in, say, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, so totally that it’s quite hard to persuade classic Hollywood fans to even try her earlier work. Makes you appreciate the stubbornness with which Ingrid Bergman resisted being made over.)

CH indulges in some full-on booty shaking in her first scene, giving a huge laugh to the minor character who declares, moments later, “That woman is the epitome of elegance!”

This little vignette shows Renoir’s skill, I think: the still, silent humiliation of the neglected wife, contrasted with the fatuous enthusiasm of her male companion as they watch the show from a box. The wife will take the opera glasses from her idiot hubby, not to look herself, just to limit his oafish leering, and then she has to physically prevent him from throwing the flowers which he belatedly remembers are his gift to her.

What’s most typical of Renoir here is, I think, the co-existence of tragedy and comedy in the same frame, equally weighted, each given their due, resulting in a weird harmony that’s lifelike and not in the least jarring.

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