Jean Renoir

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Tommaso
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#51 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:55 am

Talking of Renoir's American films: I haven't seen any of them except "The River". With which should I start? Is any of them available in a decent dvd edition (i.e. of similar quality to the Studio Canal/Lionsgate releases)? From what I have read, I'm particularly interested in "Diary of a Chambermaid", but that one seems to be only available on a Spanish disc. Does anyone own it and can say something about the transfer?

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#52 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:09 am

Diary of a Chambermaid in the Spanish edition is a pretty OK transfer of an unrestored print - thus some dirt and sparkle, but generally good...

BTW that Warner 3 disc box containing Le Crime De M. Lange is a couple of years OOP as rights reverted to Studio Canal some time ago, as they prepared for their purchase of Optimum and roll out of that strategy in UK/Ireland.

Studio Canal also released Renoir's Madame Bovary as part of their French boxset, so that one also awaits an Optimum release I presume....

La Nuit du Carrefour is superb and deserves an official release somewhere - I think Nick @ MoC has been pursuing it, and has been having problems identifying the rights holders...

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#53 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:24 am

Jesus Christ Ellips d'ya think there is a chance for NicW and MoC and Nuit?

Fuck the copyright holders ( whoever they aint.) and get on with it. This is surely Renoir's greatest movie (in fact) but it has no provenance. Well - so fuckin wot?

The real problem is the ghastly state of the prints..... well...

Ahem COUGH!! while they're at it - um... can they do a double of the Renoir plus Duviv's Tete d'un Homme? Um from the same year?

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#54 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:36 am

A case for Inspector Maigret clearly...!

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#55 Post by tryavna » Sun Jun 24, 2007 11:11 am

Tommaso wrote:Talking of Renoir's American films: I haven't seen any of them except "The River". With which should I start?
Tommaso, after The River, my own personal favorite of Renoir's American productions is The Southerner, which due to its PD status is available on a cheap and rather lackluster R1 disc from VCI. It's really not the best way to experience this extremely warm and optimistic film, but it's the best option available at the moment as far as I know. If you've ever seen Tourneur's Stars In My Crown, The Southerner makes a wonderful companion-piece.

In my opinion, the other four American Renoir pictures experience a drop-off in quality, though are still worth catching. The overt propaganda in This Land Is Mine is unwelcome in a Renoir movie, his Diary of a Chambermaid was superseded by Bunuel's (though that may be a matter of opinion), and Woman on the Beach is a bit of a mess because of studio interference during post-production. (The first time I saw Woman on the Beach, I couldn't make heads or tails of it, though I enjoyed it much more my second time around.)

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#56 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:01 pm

Thanks for the advice! The existence of the Bunuel version was precisely the reason why I got interested in Renoir's, to make a comparison between the two (and the few excerpts I've seen in one of the documentaries on the CC discs looked promising, anyway). It seems that the Spanish dvd is out of print, though. And looking at the screen caps at the Beaver "The Southerner" doesn't look good indeed. Ah, what a shame that nobody seems to care to put out these films on a broader basis - I thought the name Renoir alone should justify an attempt at a top-notch edition, even if they don't match his earlier work in France.
Well then, perhaps I will wait and see whether any of these will come in a second box from Optimum or from France (after all, the French did put out "Woman on the Beach" and "This land is mine", although it seems these are not the best discs either). But as has been stated in this thread before, more of the lesser known 30s Renoir would probably be much more important (I watched "Toni" the other day and was blown away...)

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#57 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 1:12 pm

20th Cent Fox have released Swamp Water at least in R2 UK/Ireland... Renoir's American movies are interesting, because here he is, an European auteur, working within the Hollywood studio machine, and in a language not his own, with some frustration, and also a filmmaker seeking new modes of expression when his previously held values seemed powerless...

The Southerner was his favourite American movie (I don't place The River as an American movie, it's a whole fascinating and wonderful kettle of fish in itself) but for me there's a progression to that point, and the intriguing and really interesting The Woman on the Beach...

The American period also brings a vast increase in recorded documentation, letters etc. relating to Renoir's work, contrasting with the relatively sparser amounts from the 1930s... This was due to the archiving work of Dido Renoir and the comprehensive studio files.... Thus there's there's some very interesting articles and chapters on Renoir's American films...

These include the key text 'Renoir Americain' by Maurice Scherer (Eric Rohmer) in the seminal January 1952 issue of Cahiers du Cinema devoted mainly to Renoir, and coinciding with the French release of The River.... As La Regle du Jeu was to the 1930s, The River was to Renoir's 1950's period, Andre Bazin later declared...

Renoir was placed at the pinnacle of the pantheon....

Greathinker

#58 Post by Greathinker » Wed Aug 15, 2007 11:44 pm

The Woman on the Beach is certainly an interesting film; I caught it today on TCM. Despite the cuts you can still see Renoir at work, and the whole picture has a strange precarious presence, like its on the verge of revealing itself but never does. The performances though were the standout, especially Charles Bickford-- what an image of him approaching the ship through the window. I'm completely surprised this hasn't made it out into R1 yet; I was expecting an incoherent mess from some responses but it's more than watchable. I only found fault with the overzealous musical cues.

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#59 Post by tryavna » Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:31 am

Greathinker wrote:I was expecting an incoherent mess from some responses but it's more than watchable.
I hope it wasn't I who left you with that impression from my previous post in this thread. I actually think that the first half of the film is marvelous, but it isn't quite as compelling from the mid-point onwards -- basically from Bickford's "accident" to the end. Everything seems much too forced and, especially, rushed towards the end. But I do love how Renoir wraps up the two intersecting love triangles and doesn't leave anyone "out in the cold," so to speak. That inclusiveness is pure Renoir, not pure Hollywood.

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#60 Post by Tommaso » Wed Nov 28, 2007 9:18 am

I've been lucky enough to see Renoir's "Chambermaid" in the cinema yesterday, and was very pleasantly surprised. Certainly not his greatest film, but as usually marvellously photographed and well directed. It might suffer from the inevitable comparison to the somewhat similar "Rules of the game", of course, with which it cannot compete, but Renoir still manages to retain some of his usual over-the-top joking (the scene where the captain throws stones into the hothouse roof is priceless). A wonderful performance by Goddard as well, and a nice sardonic one by Lederer as Joseph. Only the actor who plays Celestine's lover (can't recall the name at the moment) is somewhat stiff, perhaps intentionally so.

I wish Eclipse would come up with a nice box set of Renoir's American films, as it seems there are no news on a new release of this film or "The Southerner". How bad are the Montparnasse dvds of "This land is mine" and "Woman on the Beach" actually? Are the French subs removable at least? I feel very tempted to check them out at the moment....

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#61 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Nov 28, 2007 9:33 am

The Montparnasse DVDs of THIS LAND IS MINE and THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH have removable french subs, and are probably from a good video source and a little cropped, but are really good enough to be going on with for the present... Certainly I am pleased with my copies...

THIS LAND IS MINE is also available on R2 UK DVD from Blackhorse Entertainment, although I know nothing of the quality here...

DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID is on a decent Spanish DVD (Exitos de Siempre label) with options of the English or a dubbed Spanish soundtrack, and a variety of subtitles (English Spanish/Castellan etc)...[

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#62 Post by Tommaso » Sun Dec 09, 2007 8:32 am

Thanks Ellipsis. I knew about the Spanish disc of "Diary", but it seems to be OOP now, and I haven't been able to track it down on ebay yet. Will get me the Montparnasse discs then, unless someone can indeed comment on the R2 of "This land is mine".

I've got the two French discs now. I have only seen "The woman on the beach" yet, but the quality was certainly acceptable despite of some very visible edge enhancement. After just one viewing, I'm sorry that I can't say a lot of good things about the film itself, though. I know that the film was mishandled by the studio, but that still doesn't explain why this film seems so 'un-Renoirish' to me. For instance, the dialogue is often as crude as it could possibly get, and while Renoir managed to bring together noir, psychological drama and the study of a disturbed character perfectly in "La bete humaine", the similar mixture here appeared like a complete mess to me. There's almost nothing of his usual elegance in following the characters, and I found the acting outright bad in places (and that includes Bickford, I wasn't convinced that he is actually blind even at the end of the film). Of course the camera work is fine an it's not boring or something, but I found it okay that it was over after 71 min., B-films just don't run any longer.

Sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings here, but that film really disappointed me. Perhaps I'd rate it higher if I didn't know that Renoir made it. But so far, clearly by far the weakest film by him I ever saw. I'd rate even "Elena" and "Le caporal épinglé" much higher.

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#63 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Dec 09, 2007 9:12 am

It's actually a transitional film, but of significance, presenting for the first time post-war Renoir's portrayal of the damaged male, physically and psychologically wounded (in WOMAN there are of course 2 such men), while the women appear stronger by being more in tune with their nature and nature in general... Renoir clearly saw the male imperative, coveting power, money, political influence, and territory at the root of the evil that was WWII, whether they were from the right or the left...

Damaged males would appear in THE RIVER - Captain John is physically and psychologically wounded, and in an Edenic garden pre-adolescent innocent Bogey dies trying the control nature in the form of the cobra, while only Mr/Cousin John who has opted out of the male driven rat race for a life of spiritual contemplation, acceptance and consent, is presented as at peace with himself and his Hiberno-Indian daughter, in other words a modern figure...

Art triumphs over politics and other materialist concerns in the films that make up the Stage and Spectacle trilogy... The male coveting of THE GOLDEN COACH and all that it represents is transcended by the artistic and spiritual awareness of Anna Magnani's character...

DOCTOR CORDELIER is a presentation of the Jeckyll and Hyde dual nature/split personality of the male psyche, while PICNIC IN THE GRASS finds an Eurocrat leader who is promoting a new technical age where love is replaced by clinical relationships and reproduction is by eugenically controlled artificial insemination, overwhelmed and upset by the forces of nature and earthy desire for an ordinary woman...

Re. THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH, check out Janet Bergstrom's paper, ‘Oneiric Cinema: The Woman on the Beach'. Film History, 11(1), 1999. Show's among other things the evolution of the script (from her research in the RKO archives) and Renoir's modernist dissolution of narrative towards dreamlike more stream of consciousness cinema...

(PM me if you want me to send you a copy, Tommaso)...

Here's a taste of Bergstrom's piece...
In Hollywood Renoir was no longer able to work as a writer/director within a system he understood and could influence effectively. As a result, none of his American films is as fully integrated, conceptually and technically, as his works of the 1930s. This is hardly surprising considering how much Renoir counted on working with actors (in his own language, of course) and taking time to achieve the effects he wanted through trial and error. Aside from The Southerner, which Renoir felt came closest to being a personal film, Renoir's American films seem rather distant and abstract.

The Woman on the Beach ( 1947), Renoir's last American film, benefited from this tendency towards abstraction, but the fact that it did so (or, to be accurate, that it ended up doing so) represents an interesting paradox, as we shall see. Renoir recognised the abstraction of The Woman on the Beach in his autobiography, describing it as 'the sort of avant-garde film which would have found its niche a quarter of a century earlier, between Nosferatu and Caligari'. Although he saw it as a mistake for his career because it was `too obscure to please the general public', nonetheless he evoked this film with evident pleasure, while emphasising that its 'sub ject was the opposite of everything I had been working toward in the cinema up to that point':

"Joan Bennett is more beautiful than ever in her ghostlike part, Charles Bickford is moving in his efforts to conquer the void, and the admirable Robert Ryan subtly enabled us to share in his suffering. Hanns Eisler had written a musical score stressing the theme of solitude in which he played counterpoint with his customary talent ... The Woman on the Beach was a perfect theme for treating the drama of isolation. Its simplicity made all kinds of development possible. The actions of the three principal characters were wholly stripped of colourful detail; they took place in empty landscapes and in a perfectly abstract style ... In all my previous films I had tried to depict the bonds uniting the individual to his environment... now I was embarked on a study of persons whose sole idea was to close the door on that absolutely concrete phenomenon which we call life."

The Woman on the Beach has always been shrouded in mystery, not only because of its enigmatic story and atmosphere, but because of the unusual circumstances of its production. We know from Renoir's letters, interviews and his autobiography that he was happy with the film when it was finished in July 1946. On 2 August, following standard practice, the studio held a preview screening so that last-minute adjustments could be made, if necessary, before release. But the audience reaction was so negative that, based on this single screening, the film was held while major changes were made to improve its chances for commercial success. According to Renoir, perhaps a third or one-half of it was re-shot, a costly, unusual solution. The second version of the film was not released until nearly a year later, on 8 June 1947. This is the film we can see today; apparently the original no longer exists.

How different was the film previewed in July 1946 from the version released in June 1947, which has proven so interesting in its own right? In the absence of a print of the first version, this question has seemed unanswerable, yet the RKO story files hold continuous documentation of the film's long production history, including two cutting continuities which list every shot and word of dialogue for two different versions, one dated 23 September 1946 and the other, one reel shorter, 7 April 1947.

At first glance, these continuities seemed to provide an exact record, at least on paper, of the final forms of both the 'lost version' and the release version. But instead, these documents pointed the way to a more complex production and 'post-production' history. Even without recovering the original print (or the footage that was not included in the release version), we can reconstruct a rather full history of The Woman on the Beach through the RKO story and production files, UCLA's Jean Renoir Collection, and the Production Code Administration records. We find that the production went through three major phases or 'versions' rather than two, and that its dreamlike abstraction emerged rather late in the course of the long series of negotiations (which we could liken to compromise formations in the Freudian sense) that finally resulted in the released (and probably the best) version of The Woman on the Beach.

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#64 Post by Tommaso » Tue Dec 11, 2007 8:27 am

Meanwhile, I have read the Bergstrom article (thanks again, Ellipsis), and it's really a highly illuminating piece. However, it didn't really change my mind about "The Woman on the Beach", but it's more clear to me now what exactly the problems are. For instance, Bergstrom mentions the 'abstract' nature of the film, and it seems as if Renoir in his original script planned to embed the characters much more in their surroundings, "within a community of individuals with whom they demonstrate their warmth and generosity and the dependable structures of their everyday life" (Bergstrom). The absence of this in the final version is precisely what I'm missing, as this embedding is a very central aspect of any other Renoir film I could think of. Also, a lot of things in "The Woman on the Beach" are unmotivated, e.g. why Scott falls for Peggy so quickly although he has just made a proposal to his girlfriend. In the original script, the woman he sees under the sea in his dream was Peggy. If that would have been kept for the film, it would make much more sense, as then Scott's falling for her in real life would fit very well into a sort of Jungian explanation (you know, the Anima image etc.). But as we see the angelic Eve in the dream, Scott's sudden love for Peggy becomes even more unbelievable.

Bergstrom also finds the actors good, and still I can't agree with her. Sometimes when watching a film I make strange connections to films I already know and which need not necessarily have something to do with the film in question, and so it was here: watching "The Woman on the Beach", I couldn't help thinking of Powell and Pressburger's much underrated "The Small Back Room". I was reminded of this film because of the similar topic of war trauma which the central character has to overcome, and also because both films more or less start with an extended dream sequence of the traumatized character. So, if you forgive me the oblique comparison, it's obvious that P&P are the clear winners here: give me David Farrar's subtle and fully convincing portrayal anytime over the wooden Robert Ryan, and Powell's amazing visual inventiveness over Renoir's textbook dream psychology as well.

I think Ellipsis has a great point when he says that "Woman on the Beach" shows an ongoing tendency in later Renoir films of presenting weak male characters, something that didn't really occur to me before. I'd say, that this tendency started one film earlier though, with "Diary of a chambermaid", which is clearly female dominated and has both friendly and weak male characters (Celestine's lover, and the baron) or scheming, but also weak male characters (Joseph). This is definitely different to the male-centred world of 30s Renoir. Gabin in "La bete humaine" may be psychologically troubled and committing suicide in the end, but still he kills his girlfriend before (not that I count that as a sign of strength, of course, but in a way he wins over the female). And it's even more true of all the other films from the 30s. So what was the reason for this change in male character portrayal in later Renoir? Perhaps indeed what Ellipsis says about the male-centered world being responsible for WWII. Whereas war in "La grande illusion" was still portrayed as a 'gentleman's affair', this would of course have been impossible after '45.

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#65 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:09 pm

I was watching Part Two of the Thompson (BBC Omnibus) documentary Jean Renoir, and was struck by one of the most powerful statements I've ever heard about the business of any art in any time.. and it's probably so true, so sad, today just as much of not more than at any other time:

Orson Welles was talking about the studio system, and how Fox/Zanuck emasculated Renoir... to the point that they assigned him Irving Pichel.. as a liason-- meaning that while making the film (I believe it was Swamp Water) Renoir was told that he may only speak to Pichel, and Pichel would then speak to the cast.

Anyway Welles (this was definitely around the period of his wine commercials for E & J Gallo) said that the people who thrived in the studio were people who wanted to make the kind of films that the studios wanted to make. And that those who wanted to make something different had a very difficult time of it (sad as Welles of course was the epitome of this) in Hollywood.

Then he went on to talk specifically about Renoir (the interview was "about" Renoir and the above quote was leadup to the coming quote, which is the point of this post), saying "..someone like Jean Renoir-- who I think is the greatest, ever, had a very Very Difficult Time. Hollywood studios did not want a Jean Renoir movie; the heads of the studios didn't want a Jean Renoir movie even if it made money and was a big success."

That statement-- the final, boldfaced line-- just struck me from my scalp to my toes, as one of the most incredibly sad things I'd ever heard about Hollywood. The man is not talking about "the studios were risk averse, and stayed away from formal experiments as they never made money." Renoir didn't make "formal experiments" or "arty art films". His films were by and large (Regle excepted) moneymakers, and vastly beloved in Europe, and some even here in the US (ie La G. Illusion). He was generally like any other of the pool of expat filmmakers in the US coming from France, Germany, UK etc... only better.

You can take the statement-- or confirmation-- of what we all know about what happened to Renoir in the USA as further confirmation of what has already been written, and I guess its old news. But essentially it seems the essence of "they don't want a successful Jean Renoir film" is... basically the equivalent of a sign that says "The Real Thing Not Welcomed Here." Because I guess the real thing-- or a kind of real thing-- could not be construed as Studio Product, a result of more than one Guiding Hand.

I don't know much about the business side of Renoir's French, pre-war productions. Was he known as a money furnace? Was he frequently over-budget and over-schedule? His sets always seem so modest, and his dramas so human-oriented, that I never understood why Zanuck was so petrified of him..

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#66 Post by david hare » Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:48 pm

Schreck after La Regle, the beginning of WW2 and the flight from Europe Renoir was literally adrift. Unlike Lang he didn't quickly settle into any comfort zone with areas of American culture, and while Zanuck was hardly an ideal producer/boss for him I doubt any other major studio head would have been any more sympathetic. In his autobiography he talks at length about his difficulties with communication in English and his constant drifting between West and East coasts (he and Dido seem to have far preferred the intellectual life of 40s New York making friends with the likes of Odets and Albert Lewin, etc.)

But in the end I don't think there actually WAS a "Renoir picture" in the same vein any more as his thirties work (which itself is a period of change and formal transformation for him anyway.) In many ways I think Woman on the Beach is the most "Renoirian" of his Hollywood pictures. But even here he undergoes the same panic he experienced with La Regle - after bad previews he himself cut Woman to the point of near narrative ossification (although I personally find this extremely sympathetic to the movie's concerns.) It is simply not until he breaks free from the 40s transitional era and in a year of journey to India he comes to make the River - a total break from everything he had previously done formally and an anticipation of some of the things that were to come.

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#67 Post by Tommaso » Sat Dec 22, 2007 5:36 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Because I guess the real thing-- or a kind of real thing-- could not be construed as Studio Product, a result of more than one Guiding Hand.
That's something I wondered about, too. I would assume that all the major studios were indeed interested in marketing their product with a sort of corporate identity thing in mind, even to the very basics of genre (like MGM being the specialists for musicals etc.), but there may be exceptions. I may be wrong but have the feeling that Ford's or Lubitsch's films were marketed rather as 'a new John Ford film' or 'the new film from the guy who gave you [insert name of previous films]'.

Renoir, I believe, would have been hard to market that way, simply because he was far less a household name in the US, and probably he was seen by the studio bosses as just another of those talented European directors that were coming over to the States due to the war or the general political situation. And it seems that Renoir occasionally wasn't all too reliable, even if he probably wasn't a Fritz-Lang-style money burner . Just yesterday I watched the sublime "Partie de Campagne" and listened to the audio commentary. Philip Kemp mentions there how being unable to film due to the weather, Renoir actually left the set for long stretches, going way over budget and finally abandoning the project completely because he had taken on work for "Les bas-fonds", much to the annoyance of actors and producer. Also, unbelievable as it seems, "La regle du Jeu" was a big flop initially, hated by the critics and possibly audiences alike, and that was his last film in Europe. So he couldn't come to the US with a big success on his hand which would have enabled him to demand greater freedom.

Zanuck also didn't have any understanding for Renoir's techniques. In one of his infamous memos on "Swamp Water" (which can be read in the aforementioned Bergstrom article), Zanuck states for example:
"You are wasting entirely too much time on non-essential details in your background" or "You used four different angles to get over the action with the sheriff on the porch. This could have been covered with one or two angles at the most." It seems that Zanuck objected against precisely those things that make Renoir so great in many people's view: deep focus photography and the attention it must receive, the almost abstract organisation of space as in "Regle du Jeu", all the care for seemingly unimportant details of the mise en scene in general, and of course the complexity of the characterization.

I'm not sure whether Renoir never was able to do anything in the vein of his 30s pictures in the USA, as David says. Tryavna has praised "The Southerner" here (which I haven't yet seen), and I would speak up for "Diary of a Chambermaid" again, a film which for me only falls a little short of his great French masterpieces (and at least has the care and attention that Zanuck would have liked Renoir to get rid of), but it's perhaps significant that these two films are even less known than "Swamp water" or "This land is mine". Renoir's whole aesthetics simply don't seem to have been very Hollywood-compatible.

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#68 Post by ellipsis7 » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:57 pm

Interestingly his next film, THE RIVER, produced by a Hollywood florist, and financed by Indian money, an independent picture made outside the studio system, was a huge North American box office success at the same time being hailed by Bazin and the Cahiers crowd...
You can get some idea of how it was marketed.... Full document here

I love THE RIVER, although it is clearly of its time... Ian Christie writes in his Criterion essay...

[quote]Like another near-contemporary film, Rossellini's Journey to Italy (1953), The River has survived falling out of fashion to re-emerge as a touchstone for a certain kind of modernity in cinema. It's a self-conscious, reflective film that draws on the “realityâ€

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#69 Post by Grand Illusion » Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:47 pm

I hate to bash on one of my favorite directors, but I just watched the River and thought it was awful. The fetishism of the Indian culture attempted to mask what was an overall cliche and boring plotline. Really, the all-white cast could've been on a soundstage, intercut with National Geographic footage for the same effect.

The performances of the children were campy, and not because it's a film from the '50's. The lead male performance was the only strong one, again, surprising coming from Renoir. The beautiful subversiveness of Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game and Boudu, Saved From Drowning gave way to a sort of cultural infantilism.

After seeing Deepa Mehta's Water, this was such, such a letdown.

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#70 Post by Grand Illusion » Thu Jan 03, 2008 4:20 pm

ellipsis7 wrote:WATER is by no means free of criticism, and could indeed (through Ray) be seen to be on a direct if imperfect lineage from the THE RIVER...

Time Out writes...
...earnest but engaging, its outrage and campaigning zeal are sufficiently tempered to allow the expression of individual portraits. Nor does the lovers' eye-catching romance swamp what is, fundamentally, a microcosmic humanist study, replete with Ozu and Ray quotations. If its emotional and intellectual effects are sadly muted, blame its too-transient focus and unsettling clash of competing East-West styles and sensibilities.
I definitely see its relation to The River. That's why I saw fit to make the comparison. But I just feel it deals in issues that Renoir of the 30s would've saw fit to make.

I do agree that Water is not flawless and that it can be seen as somewhat of a descendant of The River.

I'm no spiritual person, but I thought Water really showed the beauty of the Indian culture while showing also the negatives and backwards aspects. Complexity just doesn't exist like this in The River. Everything from the POV of its white cast to the plot to the editing makes it simple.

And if there was ever a clash of East-West, I would think it would be showing Indian culture and life, then cutting away to an Andy Hardy plotline. Water may be pastiche at points, but it's affecting and real in ways The River wants to be.

I'm not sure I necessarily buy that The River is "dated," because Renoir was showing the necessary ambiguities and complexity twenty years earlier.

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#71 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:23 pm

I've covered this elsewhere on the forum, but there is more maturity and experience in the moral complexity created by Renoir in THE RIVER not least in the progressive and forward looking characters of Irishman Mr John and his Hiberno-Indian daughter Radha, and their philosophy of consent and acceptance, following the flow of THE RIVER of life, and rejection of (mainly male) materialistic, power hungry values at the root of WWII and its culture of control, conquest, subjugation and suppression... Only these main characters and the female narrator Harriet (who implicitly becomes a professional writer) have an unfettered future, most of the other males have stunted growth and an uncertain path ahead... The film is not 'dated' but modernist in that it does not see a single solution or attitude that will put the world to rights... It is a 'coming of age' story in many senses, whereas WATER does imply, despite its clear humanism and sensitivity, that liberal modern values transposed to India of 1938 might just put everything right if married with the elements of indigenous culture that are acceptable... Tolstoy said the true drama comes from 'good' vs. 'good', not 'good' vs. 'bad', i.e. moral complexity, ethical ambiguity, which Renoir echoes in his experience of the French cavalry quoted at the head of this topic...
"...(I discovered) there are no white horses, any more than there are black horses. There are dark grey horses, light grey horses, dark chestnut horses, and light bay horses; in short there isn't a single horse that doesn't have a few hairs of another colour. Cliches do not exist in nature or in life. So there shouldn't be any in my films..."

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#72 Post by Stefan » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:49 am

Does anyone know if there's a DVD of Renoir's "La nuit du carrefour" (1932) - in Europe or elsewhere? According to DVDbeaver (whose listing of releases seems rather complete) there is none. But, perhaps, someone around here knows better. Thanks in advance.

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david hare
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#73 Post by david hare » Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:09 am

No. Simple. There have been recent French TV broadcasts (and copies of that floating around) which leads one to hope a DVD is not too far away. But for an English friendly DVD god knows when if ever.

Ellips I was reading Chris Fujiwara's recent book (as editor and contributor) The Black Book and he himself has a wonderful entry on the River. He focuses on the scene in which Bogie dies. Preceding this event, which is in fact not shown, Renoir begins with several shots of indiviual members of the household falling asleep , with dissolves from one to the other. As Fujiwara points out, Renoir suspends time, and makes time completely indefinite for this pivotal "action" in the movie, so that - in a sense - time becomes infinite. Which itself is central to the philosophy of this total masterpiece. Nothing less than the web and warp of the uiniverse takes place in less than three minutes of onscreen time.

Another, and also favorite sequence for me is, earlier in the movie, when Harriett gets out her diary to simultaneously write down and read to Captain John and Adrienne Corri her retelling of the Kirshna/Devi story, filmed by Renoir in the manner of proscenium staging with classical champs-contre champs montage, in which she suggests the superimpostiion of Melanie and her suitor as the principles, who then go on to"perform" the tale. This is a sublime episode in the film, and again Renoir breaks it down into three "sections", each beginning with a slow track into Harriet and then onto the narrated story's image, but each section, although all three appear to run coninuously in time, begins in a completely disparate part of the house or garden, once again suspending time or place, and any notion of temporal reality. Of such utterly simple things does Renoir's genius spring!

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#74 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:18 am

Very, nice, David - thanks - great analysis... The sequence where the family is going to sleep took a long time to shoot, such was Renoir's perfectionism... Rumer Godden remembers in her autobiography...
"I am a detailist," said Jean, " A film's quality is in its detail," which echoed my own feeling but drove Kenny [Kenneth McEldowney, the Hollywood florist turned first time producer] to a frenzy...I remember one scene where, during the film household's afternoon siesta - the siesta that had such dire consequences - the youngest child, Victoria, had rolled off her bed and was asleep on the floor, the bed being occupied by the family's pet rabbit, Hoppity - if any director caught the feeling of a real family, Jean did. He wanted Hoppity to hop across the bed and peer over its edge at Victoria as if to ask how and why they changed places. There was of course no animal trainer in Calcutta; Hoppity belonged to Nancy and was not accustomed to obedience.

Again and again the shot was set up; either Hoppity grew lazy under the lights and would not hop or he hopped in the wrong direction; or Victoria, who was only three years old, would suddenly open her eyes or sit up. Jean got his shot but, "Three days, " protested Kenny. "Three days wasted"
"Not wasted,"said Jean. "We got it."
"But think of the cost!"
"When you are actually filming you must not think of the cost. You can always get money, " said Jean, "you cannot always get truth."
Radha/Melanie's dance for her suitor in Harriet's fairytale was performed barefoot on a set with a real Bengal village floor made of clay mixed with cow dung... McEldowney's inexperience meant that there was not always the right equipment available to Renoir. The late arrival of sound recording gear prompted him to film the documentary sequences on the river while waiting, whereas filming the dance, Renoir had no dolly and tracks so necessity bred invention - the camera remains static but Radha/Melanie moves forward and backwards in frame creating the movement that way...

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#75 Post by Highway 61 » Sun Jun 01, 2008 9:50 pm

I doubt this is of high interest, but I thought I'd share an anecdote from Jeanine Basinger's great new book The Star Machine. In a chapter on child musical star Deanna Durbin, she writes about a film the actress was supposed to have made with Jean Renoir called Forever Young. Bruce Manning, the producer, ended up rewriting the script, firing Renoir, and completing the film, which was retitled The Amazing Mrs. Holliday. Renoir wrote about the film in his autobiography, saying he did weeks worth of shooting. Yet Basinger cites a rare letter from Durbin later in life saying that the extant film is actually two-thirds Renoir's work. IMDB put the film in Renoir's filmography (uncredited), but this thread didn't. Anyone seen it or have knowledge of just how much the movie belongs to Renoir?

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