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Thursday, February 21, 2013

RENOIR

By D.E.Levine

A Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2013 selection.  New York Premiere

Directed by Gilles Bourdos and set in the beautiful south of France in 1915, we see the lushness of the countryside, vital and alive, contrasted with the elderly and infirm French Impressionistic painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Now a widower and confined to a wheelchair, Renoir is lovingly looked after by an assortment of devoted women who bath him, cook for him and in general keep his life running smoothly despite the fact that his hands are so crippled it's difficult to detach his paint brushes from his hands each evening.  They even carry him in his wheel chair to different sites where he can paint outdoors.  And, relentlessly, he does get up and paint every day.

His youngest son, a boy of about 12 lives with him and develops an easel that's easier for his father to use..  We hear about his oldest son Pierre, who has a crippled arm and hand due to injuries sustained fighting in World War I..  We also hear about his middle son Jeannot (Jean) who's away at war, fighting on the front lines.,

The film initially centers around the painter Renoir and his latest model, Catherine Hessling, and daily life both inside and outside the painter's studio.  The youngest son has a crush on the beautiful model who confides that she wants to give up modeling and become an actress in America,

About half-way through the film, Jean, returns home.with a serious leg wound and falls in love with Catherine while his leg is mending.  He's a hard drinking, socializing fellow, but there's a serious side to him too and he seems very patriotic..  His father, who doesn't show much warmth to his sons, is genuinely glad to have Jean back alive and on the mend.  He's deeply shocked when Jean, having professed his love for Catherine, decides to join the French Air Force and return to active duty.  However, before he leaves Jean assures Catherine that he will return alive and make a star out of her in the movies.

While the film ends at this point, additional text on the screen tells us that Jean did indeed return and started making movies starring Catherine Hessling, after he married her.  They split in 1930 and she died in 1979, a forgotten individual and pretty much a pauper.  Jean Renoir, on the other hand, became one of cinema's most  prominent writes, actors, and directors whose work lives on well after his death.

He died in Hollywood in 1979 after having left France when the Nazis invaded, and become an American citizen.