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Flicks - Renoir
Renoir 13/05/30 2:58
Flicks - Renoir
Gilles Bourdous' new film portrays the impact of a beautiful young model and muse on the lives of the great painter Auguste Renoir, and his son Jean, the future director. Renoir, the new film by Gilles Bourdos, takes its title from the great Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but it focuses on just one brief period in the artist's old age—1915, when he was 74, at the height of the First World War and immediately after the death of his wife of 25 years. Living on his farm on the French Riviera, Renoir is unable to walk due to his rheumatoid arthritis, which has also created intense pain and deformities in his hands. Along comes a red-haired beauty, a teenager named Andrée Heuschling, nicknamed Dédee, whom shortly before her death Madame Renoir had asked to visit the painter, thinking that the girl would be a suitable model for him. She proves to be a perfect subject for a series of nude portraits, although her fiery, independent spirit irritates the group of women servants, many former models for Renoir, who surround the famous and wealthy artist, attending to his every need. The only other person on the farm is Claude, nicknamed Coco, Renoir's third son, too young to fight in the war, and feeling bitter and abandoned after the death of his mother. Soon, the second son Jean arrives, on crutches after being wounded in battle. He spends time recovering on the farm, and falls in love with Dédee, who wants to act in the movies and inspires him to become a film director.
With all the characters in place, the film serenely observes their quiet life on the farm, and the underlying tensions, between the young woman and the men who all love her in different ways, between brothers, and between father and sons. Christa Theret plays Dédee, and she appears to be just the kind of model that the real Dédee might have been, while avoiding the danger of being a mere object of male desire with her fine, mercurial, headstrong performance. Vincent Rottiers is suitably reflective and vulnerable as Jean Renoir, and he even looks a little like the great film director as a young man. But it is the veteran actor Michel Bouquet as the old man Renoir, referred to by everyone as "the Boss" who dominates the picture, with his slow lumbering mannerisms, his piercing eyes over a full beard, and his grand, deep voice. This is a film about art, and what makes an artist—for Renoir, it is all about the temporal beauty of flesh, and nature with its brilliant colors. It is the gorgeous countryside that, in the end, is the movie's real star. The great Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Ping Bin Lee makes the entire film look like a Renoir painting in motion. This is the most visually beautiful film I've seen in quite some time.
Renoir doesn't argue for or against anything, but lets us observe the contrasts of youth and age, suffering and beauty, for ourselves. It is also a belated tribute to a woman, Dédee, later known in her film performances as Catherine Hessling, without whom we may not have had the career of one of the world's greatest directors, Jean Renoir. Renoir lingers in the mind after you see it, radiating both happiness and wistful regret.