Renoir is a 2012 French drama film based on the last years of Pierre-Auguste Renoir at Cagnes-sur-Mer during World War I. The film was directed by Gilles Bourdos and competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The film is set in the south of France during World War I and stars Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Thomas Doret and Vincent Rottiers.Renoir achieved critical and commercial success both in France and abroad, most notably in the United States where it is on the Critic's Pick list of The New York Times The film was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, but was not nominated. In January 2014, the film received four nominations at the 39th César Awards, winning for Best Costume Design.
The film tells the forgotten story of Andrée Heuschling, also known as Catherine Hessling, who was the last model of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and the first actress in the films of his son, the film director Jean Renoir. Andrée was the link between two famous and widely acclaimed artists, a father and son. While the father is at the end his brilliant career, the son is still searching for himself, his great career as one of the most celebrated movie directors having not yet begun.
Director Gilles Bourdos used the services of a convicted art forger, Guy Ribes, to create and re-create the Renoir paintings in live action on screen.
The film received generally favorable reviews from critics. The film-critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported 69% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 65 reviews, with an average score of 6.5/10. The critical consensus is: "Appropriately enough, Renoir offers viewers a drama of sumptuous beauty—which is more than enough to offset its frustratingly slow pace and rather thinly written screenplay."Metacritic, which assigns a standardized score out of 100, rated the film 64 based on 23 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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- ^Pulver, Andrew (30 April 2012). "Cannes 2012: seven films join the lineup". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
- ^Rendez Vous with French Cinema, The New York Times retrieved 25 March 2013.
- ^"A Muse to the Father, and a Wife to the Son". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- ^"Renoir biopic to be France's official Oscars submission". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
- ^"Renoir représentera la France aux Oscars 2014". L'Express. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- ^Richford, Rhonda (16 September 2013). "Oscars: France Nominates 'Renoir' in Foreign Language Category". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- ^Richford, Rhonda. "Berenice Bejo, Lea Seydoux, Roman Polanski Among France's Cesar Awards Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
- ^Richford, Rhonda. "France's Cesar Awards: 'Me, Myself and Mum' Wins Best Film". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
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He can barely hold a brush and it's not clear how well he sees, but he works doggedly each day, producing gorgeous and lush canvases inspired by her perfect derriere. In fact, it's one of the film's only glimpses of humour that every time we see Renoir's gnarled hand at the canvas, he's working on the buttocks.
To be sure, this is a masculine version of artistic grandeur in various stages, the full flowering of the old man and the slow gestation of the young Jean, who comes home from war with a terrible wound that will leave him with a permanent limp. Jean is 21, although he was actually two years older when Andree first appeared - which tells us the writers have moved her arrival forward to match his recovery. They want her in situ when he gets back on crutches.
We've had lots of feminist revisionist movies about artists, in which the muse is more important than the artist. The recent Hitchcock film with Helen Mirren twisted itself in knots trying to make the argument that she was more integral to his success than his own talent, which was ridiculous. There is some relief then that this is not another rewriting of history for gender purposes, but Renoir commits the opposite error of treating the female characters as mere handmaidens to greatness. Devoted, adoring and with the younger ones at least, frequently disrobed.
The women in this movie do all the work, serving as devoted courtiers. There are about five of them living at the house in Cagnes-sur-Mer when Andree arrives. They cook and clean, they administer painkilling injections and massage the boss's hands, they even carry his sedan chair up the slope to his studio, because he can't walk. We learn next to nothing about them, except that most have been his models and all of them ended up in his bed, according to the remarkably sullen Claude, who's about 13 and feeling unloved.
With the return of Jean, a certain tension grows around Andree. The son is moving in on the father, even if the father is only interested in how she can help him to get paint on canvas. She behaves like a spoiled girl on the make, upsetting the other women and flirting with Jean. There's a hard edge to her that's never explained, as though she has had a hard life. Why not tell us?
The movie doesn't want to be that obvious. It would rather die for lack of drama than overstate its intentions, so we roll along with one gorgeous tableau after another, as the old man tries to capture his last few canvases. The moments when we see him applying paint are some of the best, because they show us how he achieved some of his effects. The director, Gilles Bourdos, is said to have hired a convicted art forger to recreate the paintings and his hands at work may be the most authentic part of the film. They give some insight about the practice of making art, rather than the psychology. Films about painters are hard to bring off, because what they do, applying paint to a surface, is dull to watch - unless the person doing it is really skillful and communicative.
About 20 years ago I watched Victor Erice's film Dream of Light (El Sol del Membrillo), in which he documented the artist Antonio Lopez Garcia making a still life from start to finish. The film was 138 minutes long and completely absorbing. Turns out watching paint dry can be fabulous if it's real and truthful. Renoir is more like decorative, polite and skin deep.