Une vie sans joie

A capital work of art, Dieudonné as cosignatory will have his due, the photographic reigns supreme, it strides into the cinematographic, his face expresses the supreme of ennui, the title character is the mayor’s kitchen maid.

Dites, Edith, un oui qui laisse

Votre soupirant en liesse,

Un oui, par pitié, ou sinon,

Malgré mon zèle je délaisse

La France et l’Administration !

As Vigo notes, there is another Nice, Pabst appears to echo it in Die Dreigroschenoper.

Dieudonné and Renoir continue in a vein anticipating Pabst’s Tagebuch einer Verlorenen.

The mayor’s electoral difficulties are a small-town joke writ large and the pivot of the entire film.

L’aube se levait... et Catherine dormait encore.”

The hallucinatory finish that has “deux vagabonds en quête d’un mauvais coup” is essentially mirrored in Murnau’s Sunrise.


La Fille de l’eau

A charming screenplay, its villain played by its author “entreprit de dilapider l’héritage.”

D.W. Griffith (Broken Blossoms) and Buster Keaton or Gasnier’s The Perils of Pauline are indicated, the splendid nightmare is well in advance of Cocteau (and Russell).

Certain touches in the shooting and the editing are as much in the vein of early Hitchcock as anything else.

Pierre Leprohon saw a “partly destroyed copy at the Cinémathèque Française”, discounted the plot as “very slight” and described the circumstances of filming in brief (“the crew set out for La Nicotière, Cézanne’s property at Marlotte, where various buildings provided natural settings for the action”).

Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader) considers the result “full of charm and poetry,” Time Out Film Guide “a quite recognisable Renoir.”

Also Schlesinger (Far from the Madding Crowd), owing to Truffaut’s formula, “a woman loves and is loved by three men...”



Une jolie fille... ni voix, ni talent... l’idole du Boulevard...

Truffaut, “romanticism... the same theme as in La Chienne... Renoir was, in the view of the profession, just a daddy’s boy keeping himself busy with a camera and wasting his family’s money when he shot Nana... he reinforced the French side of his films while he absorbed the Hollywood masters.”

Charles Morgan of the New York Times found “the picture is dull... the story itself is a crude one”. It makes its way through Lang to Kubrick’s Lolita, nonetheless.

Tom Milne perceives an influence on Les Carabiniers (Godard on Godard). Truffaut’s amateur has Werner Krauss to his Comte Muffat, setting off Hessling’s brilliant and fascinating Nana.

Un échec retentissant... sa dernière création avait été pour ses amis l’enterrement de nombreuses espérances.A resounding failure, the entombment of many a hope, her Little Duchess (where her success in Blonde Venus inspired Sternberg).

Lively comparisons can be drawn with Antonioni’s La Signora senza camilie, Hawks’ Twentieth Century, etc. A most excellent comedy, to be sure.

Madame est-elle visible?

At Longchamps the fix is in, not for long champs.

“The gilded fly,” she’s called, “that poisons whatever it lands on.”

Malle remembers Georges “où les robes de Nana faisaient régner un voluptueux parfum” in Le Souffle au cœur.

She teaches an old dog new tricks. Que les hommes sont bêtes!Renoir’s contempt for the Théâtre des Variétés is not far from that of Fellini and Lattuada in Luci del Varietà. She dances the can-can like Chaplin’s model for The Gold Rush. The camera on a dolly deals itself in or out across the set forward or back. Le plaisir, le plaisir, si tu crois que ça m’amuse!It ascends the stairs of Nana’s mansion one last time with the founder of the feast to see the poor wretch. Minnelli’s Madame Bovary comes to much the same end.

Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “anticipates his later (superior) films.”


Sur un air de Charleston

What famous masterwork did Renoir initiate here?

2001: A Space Odyssey.

Also Juran’s First Men in the Moon, Welles’ The Hearts of Age, etc. Après vous pourrez me tuer et me manger!

Reader, she doesn’t eat dark meat. Vadim’s Barbarella...

“The traditional dance of White men.”

Truffaut, “burlesque”.


Tire au flanc

The poet de famille and the family valet enlist.

Jolly French, “une note pittoresque dans la vie méthodique de la caserne: l’arrivée des bleus,” which is to say that things liven up around the base when recruities arrive.

At home, a foreglimpse of La Règle du jeu. In the barracks, La Grande illusion. V’là mon ancien patron. C’est un poseur qui se croit sorti de la ‘cuisine de Jupitercomme on dit,” the valet says of the poet, seeing him coming, as they say, “sprung from the headquarters of Zeus.”

At 24fps, a somewhat intemperate proposition.

Mon colonel, c’est le poète.”

Ah ! oui... l’idiot.”

The title means goldbricking but has been given as The Sad Sack, McGrath’s McGonagall is such another.

Truffaut, “burlesque”, a lesson from Chaplin as Nana from Stroheim, the Renoir theme of the “adorable hussy”, finally “it is impossible to prove what I believe to be true—that the construction of Zéro de Conduite (1932), with scenes divided by titles that comment humorously on life in the dormitory and the refectory, was very much influenced by Tire au Flanc (1928), which was itself directly influenced by Chaplin, most particularly by Shoulder Arms (1918).Truffaut’s nervous pianist derives in part from the poet’s guardhouse reading matter, How to Become Daring. “Most of our politicians are the living proof.”

Not Solange but Lily (for the valet his Georgette). Petit ballet du faune et de la sylphide (Georges Pomiès, Michel Simon) with fireworks, a shower.

The colonel is hoist with his own petard nearly, but Wellies out the storm.

The poet is victorious. “Qui donc a mis cette brute dans cet état?


The Tournament

“A Historical Drama in 3 Reels”, evidently a fragment of Le Tournoi dans la cité, reported as twice or even three times longer.

1562, conveyed by both means available to the director, a painterly consideration of portrait and pageant, and a purely naturalistic use of photography for intimate views.

Private duels are outlawed, one is settled at a public joust.

Catholic and Protestant feuding must cease.

In every way a remarkable film, rather oddly considered by some writers as insignificant, a commission.


On Purge BéBé

La folie conjugale, familiale, the discovery of the Hebrides.

Feydeau, gone to town, writes back an explorer’s treatise. The far-famed savoir-faire and franchise of the French get run up the flagpole, as the Americans say, “or is that some fancy hat?”

It ain’t Sèvres, baby. The manufacturer and patent-holder, his luncheon guest, a highly-placed cocu, their wives, l’Armée Française et al.

Fulsomely recalled by Buñuel in Le Fantôme De La Liberté. It ain’t even ordinary porcelain, it’s unbreakable, résiste tout... presque tout!

Time Out, “droll adaptation of a slight, one-act farce”. Mel Brooks has the last word, “plumbing!”

The title character is seven, he’s called Toto, short for Hervé. Du tout! Du tout, du tout, du tout, du tout!


La Chienne

The mystery of the artist loved for his work.

This is crucial for an understanding of the double structure set up in Huston’s Moulin Rouge.

Agonizing, but he survives, happy in old age with a clochard’s tip.


Boudu sauvé des Eaux

That is, Boudu Saved from Drowning. Renoir’s sparkling masterpiece is rather, in its literary way, like Nabokov’s story of the Russian poet long vanished who shows up at a meeting where funds for his memorial are being collected and cheerfully asks for the money.

Better still, Enrico’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.

The significant remake is Mazursky’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills or Furie’s Little Fauss and Big Halsy.

“And above all do not go,” says Mallarmé’s almsgiver, “to buy bread.”



It’s the same fate as in La Chienne, set in the air and light of the Midi, a true story, less comical.

“Renoir invented neorealism... life as it comes... the work of the actors in Toni is pure pleasure”. (Truffaut)


Partie de campagne

A film to recall the director’s father, who said of Mozart, “he had to compose, like you have to pee.”

Renoir’s direct corollary to Boudu sauvé des Eaux, and all but a famous Fragonard.

Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek come and go prosperously, their city scenes were not filmed owing to production delays caused by rain, it’s said.

And this is still, whatever its source, a basis (like the earlier film) of Renoir’s technique in The Southerner.


Le crime de Monsieur Lange

Arizona Jim avenges every French writer abused by an editor who deserved dying.

And thus, even before Coney Island, the Nouvelle Vague begins.

Crowther, a hack if ever there was one, took the occasion of its first showing in New York three decades later to belittle it, along with Bresson’s Les dames du Bois de Boulogne.

A film that must have delighted Hitchcock (Shadow of a doubt) and Huston (Beat the Devil).


Les Bas-fonds

Decline and fall of a baron, out gambling with government funds.

Extrication of a congenital thief, through the love of a good woman.

The flophouse is run by a fence, her brother-in-law, his wife her sister is conducting an affair with the thief, and plotting murder.

The good woman is nearly seized as a bribe by an inspector.

The baron is infinitely genteel, in his element he is the flower of culture, out of it perforce he is purblind and does not recognize a blonde’s romantic anecdote (from a novel called Amour fatale) as reflecting his own plight, furthermore he punctures an actor’s dream of marble-columned hospitals somewhere, pristine, for such a drunkard as himself.

Reciting Shakespeare in the yard, the actor commits suicide by hanging.

The fence is dead, the thief has served his time, he departs with the good woman (like Chaplin, as pointed out in reviews).



La Grande illusion

You can see how grand La Grande illusion is from its various lines of departure, Dearden’s The Captive Heart, Bresson’s Un Condamné à Mort S’est Échappé, Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai, and the clearest homage of all, Sturges’ The Great Escape.

The script is an ascending series of harmonies constructed out of true accounts of World War I, “the war to end all wars” (that Grand Illusion). Renoir’s style is all of a piece, an art of pictures, and if the camera moves it’s from one picture to another.

When Reed takes a tour of the children’s ward in The Third Man, he employs a sequence of shots to describe the tragic scene. Renoir simply pans to Lotte sitting at the empty table to achieve the same effect. He conveys Spring by opening a window and dollying through it.

Disney’s The Band Concert and Forde’s Land Without Music may be seen in the escape scenes, and the sight of Maréchal and Rosenthal tramping not only must have inspired En Attendant Godot but the opening scene of Schatzberg’s Scarecrow.


La Marseillaise

From the Bastille to Versailles, not counting the Reign of Terror.

Renoir is, of course, on everybody’s side. That includes the people, which gives some writers pause.

Nothing is missed or overlooked, and once again the critical perturbation caused by this film is a fanciful wonder.

It might be an American war film made a few years later, the men from Marseille are just like GIs, but it all happened a century-and-a-half earlier, and in France.


La Bête humaine

The film is very abstract and follows its course like Renoir’s train-rides throughout, that pass towns and depots right by at a barreling pace and only stop at the terminus, they even scoop up water en route from pools set out between the rails.

Grandmorin has had his way with Séverine, he dies in a railroad car. She tries to persuade Lantier to kill her husband, she dies on her bed.

Lantier then dies beside the tracks. The extensive citation of Zola given as a preface and reflected in some lines of dialogue is a preparation. “We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.”


La Règle du jeu

It bombed, was banned, cut and bombed, reassembled, and seen as a masterpiece by Fellini, Bergman and Buñuel among others, Woody Allen elaborates one of its gags in Annie Hall. It proceeds from an air du vaudeville in Beaumarchais’ Mariage de Figaro to Le Bourget and the radio and telephone. The spécialité de la maison is the curving track-and-pan.

The ineffectual meddler Octave is a modulation from Ibsen, and the aviator Jurieu is twice referred to in terms of Baudelaire’s albatross, an emblem of the poet. Add the poacher, and Octave’s self-deprecation as “a parasite” (which was Valéry’s word for artists and such), and you have the screenwriters’ development of the comical supporting roles.

It now comes with a preliminary notice in which Renoir advises the public that it was “intended as entertainment and not as social criticism,” which certainly appears to be the case. The original also was banned, before its triumph.

What you have is a comedy of manners with a special tinge of satire for the famous, that opens the flower of Paris and breathes the countryside, and shows all manner of men and women as charming and ridiculous at the same time.

The theme is stated with sufficient clarity to avoid misunderstandings. Jurieu crosses the Atlantic and declares his love on the radio, this is not playing by the rules, but when he does play by them according to his lights he nearly loses Christine and, thanks to Octave’s sense of the rules, etc., loses his life.

Analyses have been made by Alan Bridges in The Shooting Party and Robert Altman in Gosford Park.


Swamp Water

The onliest or mainest thing is the trade of innocence and guilt by revelation. That done, and it’s a mighty simple thing when you look at it, then there’s the place and folk to consider.

Nicholas Ray gives an abstract reading in Wind Across the Everglades. Jean Negulesco countered the reviews with Lure of the Wilderness.

It might be that Renoir goes back to silent days for American roots, being here at “Sixteenth Century-Fox” as he called it.

A snap of his fingers tells the tale. For the rest, a mighty fine life, huntin’ an’ trappin’ an’ chasin’ the fox with hounds of an evenin’.

Pierre Leprohon, “Swamp Water is a good film without an ounce of genius in it. And this is precisely why the American public gave it such a rapid friendly welcome.”


This Land Is Mine


The New Order comes to a small town in Europe. It explains itself in the person of Major von Keller (Walter Slezak). This is very edifying, particularly as a number of books have to be burnt, and several pages removed from textbooks at the school.

A very timid schoolmaster (Charles Laughton) answers it in the docket for his life on a charge of murdering a Nazi sympathizer (George Sanders) who has committed suicide.

Maureen O’Hara is a colleague, Kent Smith her brother in the resistance, Thurston Hall the hypocritical mayor, etc.

According to Leprohon, “the movie remains indefensible” and “the best critics (including Bazin and Sadoul) were provoked into ridicule” because among other things the characters speak English, which “would not matter, except that the plot and the spirit of the work are equally ridiculous and false. Renoir really knew nothing about life under the Occupation, and the American public took this farce to its heart because it catered to their distorted vision of the Occupation’s reality.Renoir to Claude Renoir (1946), “if what I read is true, I am not prepared to forget the deep pain this lack of understanding by my fellow countrymen has caused me... This incident can only reinforce my desire not to go where I will find men whose heroism during the war forces my admiration but whose susceptibility seems regrettable to me.Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “a sane, courageous film... loquacious beyond excuse... hard to take... hard to credit... far-fetched... too theatrical... dissipates the interest... doesn’t quite hit the mark.Variety, “not that the picture is by any means perfect.” Leonard Maltin, “dated and disappointing today.TV Guide, “it must be praised for its understanding of humanity. Instead of painting the Germans as mighty evildoers and the French as innocent victims, Renoir took a more daring and honest approach, implicating the French as being partly responsible for the Occupation, when many citizens collaborated with the Nazis to ensure that they would remain immune from punishment and that their orderly lives would not be shattered by the invaders. Renoir avoided propagandistic cliches and took into consideration human nature; human nature, however, is not what people look for in war heroes and patriotic messages. Although long considered a propaganda film, This Land Is Mine is more correctly seen as anti-propagandistic. There is no black and white, no good or evil. There is only grey, and, in that grey area, an understanding of the frailty of human nature.” Time Out, “unusual ethical stance, not that Nazism was wrong because it denied free enterprise...” Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader), “pure jingo.” Film4, “moving tirade against Nazism that packs quite an emotional punch.” David Parkinson (Radio Times), “throughout the Second World War, Hollywood failed to capture the fear and suspicion that pervaded occupied Europe. This... is no exception... bland picture, made with virtually no enthusiasm for its clichéd villagers and hysterical Nazis, had little dramatic or propagandist value.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “contrived plot.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “one of those ‘inspirational’ war dramas that just don’t hold up too well when seen today.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “superfluous flagwaver”, citing the Guardian, “Zolaesque intensity,” James Agate, “dull,” and James Agee, “you cannot afford to dislocate or internationalize your occupied country.”


A Salute to France

Joe Doakes, Tommy Atkins and Jacques Bonhomme on their way to Normandy, they are each of them any of their countrymen perchance and much alike (cf. Mervyn LeRoy’s You, John Jones!), so that in the fortunes of war anyone might hear the charges read to him, hands bound, once the scourge of “our science” (“we in Germany have abolished the sterile institutions of democracy which strangled us. To assert our scientific right to rule the world, we must wipe out inferior people by every means, by death, by sterilization, by slavery”) has put out the light of truth (cf. Ken Russell’s Dance of the Seven Veils). The French defeat, another Pearl Harbor and Dunkirk (“man,” says Tommy, “we never knew what hit us”) and Bataan.

1792 (Rimbaud’s ‘92), 1814, 1870, 1914, Armistice. Pierre Laval, Jacques Doriot, Oswald Mosley, the American Bund. “We will wipe out even the memory of your Revolution, and the American, and the British, and the Russian, the memory of the storming of the Bastille, of the Declaration of Independence, of the Magna Carta, of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the three French Republics, the most dangerous slogan known to Europe, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! Now, for a thousand years, we will decide the fate of the world... Hail to the New Order! Hail to the superrace!Blitzkrieg, France overrun. “Soldiers without uniform... an honest review of our story here in France... but our Pearl Harbor, and our Dunkirk, was France itself. There was no place to retreat, there were no protecting waters around us, there was no breathing spell, and it seemed to us then, there was no help, anywhere.Rejection of Marshal Pétain, “he told us we were paying for our sins, then he abolished representative government in France.De Gaulle in London, “nous croyons que l’honneur des français consiste à continuer la guerre aux cotés de leurs alliés.” The experience of J.P. Melville, for example, “when the government began to turn over hostages to be shot,” a tale told by a priest (cf. Rossellini’s Roma—città aperta). “I knew there were some things worse than war, and better than peace! I knew that the Marshal was not our father, but the close relation of our enemies, and I understood what these three words, Work, Family, Country, had come to mean.Resistance to the Occupation, “a common enemy”. To “the prison camps of Germany”, a word from “the new French Army”. The Nazi complaint.

“You are on trial for rebellion against the established order. Your list of crimes is well-known. You’re one of a long line of criminals condemned for resistance to invaders for two thousand years—and for the last hundred and fifty years a wicked struggle. Revolt, mutiny, arson, propaganda, sabotage, armed resistance, spiritual pollution and cynical indifference to your lawful masters—these crimes in themselves are sufficient to condemn you to death; but more than that, your clear record of continuing to rise and fight again and again—under conditions and laws of certain defeat—can only be defined as an unforgivable sin. Therefore, no torture, no means of death, no humiliation, would add up to a just sentence of punishment in such a case; a case without parallel in history. You stand alone. There are no witnesses to help you. You may speak briefly in your own defense.”

Cf. Beckett’s Catastrophe (dir. David Mamet), Pinter’s One for the Road (dir. Kenneth Ives). Victory. “The hangman has paid for the bloodshed and the tears and the sorrow... oh, friend, can you hear—hear the song of Liberation?A film summed up by Ken Russell in the “Mars” sequence of The Planets.

Claude Dauphin, with Philip Bourneuf and Burgess Meredith (who also produced). An extraordinary pirouette that proceeds directly from This Land Is Mine and is recollected in Le caporal épinglé, though Renoir modestly dismissed his labors as a debt owed to America and France, “I worked on this film but I didn’t make it.”

O.W.I. Overseas Branch (Philip Dunne, Robert Riskin) assisted by the Army Pictorial Service and the O.S.S., screenplay Meredith and Maxwell Anderson and Renoir (using material from Dauphin, serving with the Free French), supervising editor Garson Kanin (completed by Dunne and Riskin, Renoir being then in Hollywood for The Southerner), narration José Ferrer (while playing Iago to Robeson’s Othello in New York where the film was made), voice of Hitler and others evidently Paul Frees, score Kurt Weill (whose “beautiful theme song” recorded by Robeson was cut, Meredith says). “Next I made a number of short films for the government, to be used to instruct troops. I don’t know what has become of them,” vd. nonetheless Tire au flanc.


The Southerner

A portrait of the Southern dirt farmer. Beulah Bondi’s unusual performance is an ultimate fount of Paul Henning’s Granny (as played by Irene Ryan on The Beverly Hillbillies), and Sam Peckinpah’s The Rifleman owed a good bit of its first seasons to the neighborly dispute here. The Andy Griffith Show made comedy of the catching of Lead Pencil, and so did Van Horn’s Any Which Way You Can.

Renoir’s close work on the flooded river, though it probably stems from D.W. Griffith, certainly was a direct model for Boorman’s Deliverance. A distinctive shot is the tracking shot set off-kilter to the action so that it combines a zoom and a track. A film so elemental, Renoir was ready afterward to launch out on The River.


The Diary of A Chambermaid

Mirbeau in English, by Meredith out of three dramaturges on the French stage.

The chambermaid and the scullery maid from Paris in the sticks have their latter-day adventures behind the oyster bar in Malle’s Atlantic City, visibly. “He must be a very important man.”

“He’s a valet!If the ancien régime family vault recalls the wedding board of The Philadelphia Story (dir. George Cukor), it is certainly remembered in Big Trouble (dir. John Cassavetes), the husband is game but the wife has all the money. The man of liberal thinking lives next door, eating roses and water lilies and dining with Rose his maid (she calls him her baby) and lobbing stones into his neighbor’s greenhouse.

The series of fascinating tableaux (“Fascination” is a theme in the score) modulates like a development section into the feeble scion and the scheming valet on Bastille Day. “He’s funny, isn’t he?”

“Like an undertaker.And thus, on a foreign shore, the director of La Marseillaise conveys the Terror. Hm! Here’s another woman murdered in Paris. Another woman cut to pieces.”


“Yes, dear?Not quite a year after The Southerner, Irene Ryan herself plays Louise who is such a lesson to Celestine, the title character. Renoir on a Hollywood sound stage (“an independent studio that functioned like French studios, that is,” he explains, “it rented its facilities to various producers”), directing a major variant of La Règle du jeu with nothing up his sleeves, the only filmmaker who ever lived than whom Buñuel is not more amusing.

Jacques Becker recalls it formidably in Casque d’Or. François Truffaut finds it comparable to Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier. Pierre Leprohon (Jean Renoir) records “a series of paroxysms that gradually unloose an extraordinary bitterness and violence.”

TV Guide, “a brilliant film”. Leonard Maltin, “uneasy attempt at Continental-style romantic melodrama... tries hard, but never really sure of what it wants to be.Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “it stands on an otherwise uncharted point between La Règle du Jeu and, say, The Golden Coach.Halliwell’s Film Guide, “wholly artificial and unpersuasive adaptation”.


The Woman on the Beach

An allegory of the war, lately received as a torso (Time Out Film Guide) though Renoir is said to have labored a year on the recutting and reshooting, to make it plain in Santa Barbara.

A nightmare within a nightmare ends the entre deux guerres (cf. Dieterle’s This Love of Ours).

Tod Butler the great blind artist and his ambivalent slave of a wife and the United States Coast Guard lieutenant who rides a horse enact the “dream and danger” before going their separate ways, cf. Richard Wallace’s Thunder Below (with Bickford).


The River

In Bengal, “where the story really happened.”

The structure is outwardly like the houses and towns and temples with steps (wide, narrow, rich, poor, old, new) leading down to the river. Two English girls and an Anglo-Indian girl who variously live beside the river, to them a one-legged American wounded in the war.

Already indicated are the well-informed jokes that go together to make up the actual structure like a river system.

The best criticism is in practically any of Satyajit Ray’s films, the Apu trilogy, Pikoo, etc.


The Golden Coach

The dramatic accomplishment can be simply stated, Renoir makes Vivaldi’s music intelligible and authentic to our ears, rather than the fodder of classical music stations. The Cahiers were impressed by the play within a play, and this is a striking effect when first perceived after a cut from the opening curtain, the camera shows a theater stage and then is on a movie set, furthermore a musical effect is achieved when the original orientation is attained once again at the gift of the coach, a rhyme preparing the finale, which returns to the stage.

The story is instantly familiar to a reader of Thornton Wilder or a spectator of Rowland V. Lee’s film, this is the colonial theater of San Luis Rey, here is the brilliant actress and the ideal showman, they lead a commedia dell’arte troupe from Italy on a months’-long voyage to this place, nor far from Cuzco where the Indians are still being fought. The theater is aptly described as a “barnyard” with alpacas and the like, the troupe prepares it festively and puts on a harlequinade for the local peasantry and nobles, under the auspices of their impresario the innkeeper, whose middle-class friends can’t be asked to pay, either.

Their passage is paid by the innkeeper, who expects 80% of the proceeds and a refurbished theater. The actress’s lover is a soldier accompanying the troupe, he strikes a fairer bargain, still there is a huge debt to be paid. The viceroy orders a command performance.

The polite courtly response drives the actress to despair, until the viceroy leads a round of applause. He doffs his wig to the lady in private (“it itches”), she is most agreeable.

The coach is the viceroy’s gift to his mistress, a marquise whose husband was sent to the fighting near Cuzco and died there, the expense is passed off as “personal expenditure”. To the Council of Grandees, the viceroy explains it as “a symbol”, he makes a present of it to the actress, they vote him out of office, subject to approval by the bishop, “a saint”.

The military escort joins the army, is captured by the Indians and learns “they’re better than us”, he proposes to the actress and offers “a new life” on paths too narrow for her coach.

The most popular man in town is the bullfighter Ramon, he proposes as well, they will share their audience, but he is fiercely jealous, she may not look at another man.

The viceroy proposes “as an ordinary man”. She is rueful over his plight, and gives the coach to the Church. The bishop restores peace, announcing that her gift will carry the Last Sacraments to condemned prisoners who ask for grace, and that the troupe is to give a performance at which all are expected.

The disenchantment of the actress with her profession is conjured away, she returns to the “two hours nightly” in which she lives.

Since the point has been missed by reviewers generally, it may be that Renoir made French Cancan to supply them with a film answering to their assessment of this one more closely. The point is in the alternatives symbolically presented to the actress.

The compositions suit the theatricality of the conception, and Renoir is especially skillful in his construction of the political side (the grandees are asked for further contributions to the war effort, and admire the coach). The English version is very careful to make its points plain, as when the innkeeper asks the newly-arrived showman how he likes the New World, and the Italian answers studiedly, “it will be nice when it’s finished.This is a film of much importance to Renoir, he went so far as to film it in French, English and Italian. He has an actor from the Comédie-Française as the bishop, and dubs him into English for the performance’s sake, as a Mozartean coda ends all the wrangling among the dramatis personæ.

The impossible influence on Bergman is marked and notable in The Magician and The Magic Flute.


French Cancan

Truffaut in his critical years probably didn’t understand Le Carrosse d’or, which he nevertheless described as “the noblest and most refined film ever made,” so Renoir brought him along with this.

Halliwell’s Film Guide says it’s “dramatically thin” but misunderstands the story, not “how the can-can was launched in Paris night clubs” but how the Moulin Rouge was launched by Danglard who revived the can-can for it with a fashionable English name, which is Renoir’s title.

Already the business is dicey, it gets worse and worse throughout the film, precarious, precipitous, Danglard literally falls into a pit on the site of his new establishment, which takes money and talent and brains and initiative and hard work and genius, and that is why he sits in a chair backstage attentively at the grand opening, harking to every sound of success.

The great revelation is just before the final number, the French Cancan, and here the secret of Le Carrosse d’or is the mystery revealed. The financial backer and the admiring prince and the baker’s boy who inherits the shop all have their part to play, Danglard is the creator of artistes, he serves them and they serve the theater, that is the only obligation.

“Each shot in French Cancan is a popular poster,” says Truffaut, “a moving ‘Epinal image,’ with beautiful blacks, maroons, and beiges.”

Alas it is now, as Time Out Film Guide reports, “digitally restored and on screen at the BFI Southbank.”


Elena et les Hommes

The secret is so rare that it will not be disclosed here, except to say that the coup is disguised as a gypsy.

Prince Volodya desires to blow up the Tsar but destroys himself and his palace, Lionel gets his Héloïse et Abélard played at La Scala, General Rollan has the nation at his feet.

Henri de Chevincourt, like the great man in Gist’s “I Dream of Genie” (The Twilight Zone), apperceives where such gifts are formed.

Truffaut and Godard praise this film most highly, the former cites Renoir, “if we leave reality alone, it is a fairy tale.”

Bosley Crowther saw the cut version (Paris Does Strange Things) and gave it zéro de conduite in his New York Times review.


Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier

Good, kindly, rich Dr. Cordelier, a psychiatrist beset by qualms over his attractive female patients, gives up his practice to isolate the problem of evil and treat it, within himself.

The result, M. Opale, is a fascinating herky-jerk hophead voyou one sees in the city streets now and again.

Octave serves this up at the R.T.F., all Barrault, one of Godard’s Six Best French Films since the Liberation and Ten Best Films of 1961. “One of Renoir’s ill-fated films,” says Truffaut, “like his Journal d’une Femme de Chambre (The Diary of a Chambermaid, 1946), which is equally ferocious.”


Le caporal épinglé

The miraculous effect of its style is to convey and transmute the wartime experiences it covers with a dash of intimacy and nonchalance that can’t be imitated, they are quite real and vivid, not so much represented as recorded with a frank expression to suit the occasion, yet like nothing else on this subject or any other, certainly not Grand Illusion though it is often cited as parallel and complementary. And the reason is that Renoir has invented an altogether new language for his film, which is not made of dramatic incident and comedy relief, though it has both. The Fall of France sets a certain sequence of events in motion, these are observed by following the affairs of a French Army corporal nabbed by the Germans. Lots of things happen and don’t happen, it’s the story itself that is of maximum interest at every moment, the events matter in its light. This is one of the great discoveries of the cinema, one not entirely overlooked but nearly.


Le Petit Théâtre de Jean Renoir

The end of all things is le cocuage.

the jolly cuckold

is a fuck old


There is precious little more to be said, the helpful veterinarian arrives in a Volkswagen, the end comes in the Zone Libre, Renoir emulates Hitchcock once again (Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier) as compère.