Greetings again from the darkness. Admittedly, I expect more from independent films since there is usually no committee of producers sucking the life out of the filmmaker’s vision. While writer/director Gilles Bourdos teams with Cinematographer Ping Bin Lee to deliver a film that carries the visual beauty of its subject’s paintings, it somehow offers little else.
Veteran French actor Michel Bouquet (acting since the 1940’s) captures the essence of a 74 year old Pierre-Auguste Renoir, one of the masters of the Impressionist era. By this time (1915), Renoir is in constant pain and continues painting despite his gnarled hands courtesy of severe arthritis. He has relocated to Cote D’Azur (the French Riviera) to live in peace with nature and the warmer weather … as well as his sons and 4 servants. His estate is gorgeous and provides the backdrop for many paintings. We meet his newest model, 15 year old Andree Heuschling (Christa Theret). Her spirit inspires not just Renoir the artist, but also his middle son Jean (Vincent Ruttiers), sent home to recover from his WWI injuries.
Both father and son seem to objectify the beautiful and spirited Andree, neither being capable of an adult and equal personal relationship. The frustration with this movie stems from its unwillingness to offer anything other than observations of its characters. It meanders through days with no real purpose or insight. This despite having subjects that include one of the greatest artists of all-time and his son, who went on to become a world famous movie director. The story, if there is one, just kind of lays there flat, surrounded by beautiful colors and textures.
Auguste Renoir died in 1919, but earlier that year managed to visit the Louvre and view his own paintings hanging in the majestic halls. Jean Renoir married Andree and cast her in his first silent films (as Catherine Hessling). When the films flopped, they divorced. She went on to a life of obscure poverty, and he directed two of the greatest films in history: Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game, both must-sees for cinephiles.
Alexandre Desplat provides another fine score, leaving us lacking only a story or point to the film. To learn much about Pierre-Auguste Renoir, it is recommended to read the biography his son Jean wrote.
my review of Grand Illusion
my review of The Rules of the Game
rare video of Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting (actual footage starts at 24 second mark):