Archive for Jean Renoir

Wetland Tales

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2020 by dcairns

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There’s a new Forgotten By Fox up at MUBI — a week late, we’ll have to pick up the slack at some point — which explores what happens when the genius of the system — Darryl F. Zanuck and underlings — meets an actual, living genius, in the person of Jean Renoir.

Meanwhile, at The Chiseler, Daniel Riccuito interviews Jonathan Rosenbaum about precodes and noir, and at Unattended Articles Simon Kane is performing all of Shakespeare, solo. You’ll learn plenty from the performances but also the thinking behind them. My own lockdown projects, which include watching a lot of Warren William films, kind of pale in comparison, or even without comparison.

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.

The Sunday Subtitle: A Little Theatre

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2014 by dcairns

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Funny how many late films are Christmas films. THE DEAD is the king of them, probably, but there’s also LES PETROLEUSES (late Bardot, final Christian-Jacque, Christmas on the prairie with a decorated cactus), REINDEER GAMES (last cinematic outing of Frankenheimer, Santas slaughtered like sheep) and Michael Curtiz was lucky to survive the one-two punch of WHITE CHRISTMAS and WE’RE NO ANGELS but he only lasted another five years. Still counts.

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I plonked a digital copy of a VHS of THE LITTLE THEATRE OF JEAN RENOIR in the Maidstone Blu-ray player and was immediately delighted by the Christmas connection, which I hadn’t known about. Also, the conscious choice to end his career (eight years since his last job: he must have known) with a Hans Christian Andersen adaptation, harking way way back to his 1928 version of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (a thing of beauty).

This is a TV movie (television, both cradle and graveyard of careers) and frankly looks it, but it’s strange how the vivacious spirit of a filmmaker like Renoir asserts itself through imagery that might seem cheap, flat or ordinary. Frame grabs are never going to do it justice because there’s something ineffable BETWEEN the frames.