Film Reviews

Renoir: A Languorous Look at the Last Days of the Storied Painter

In Renoir, a languorous look at the last days of the storied painter, we get a view of the artist at odds with a blue-haired lady's notion of her favorite impressionist. It's a pivotal moment of Renoir family history, with father and son both taking creative and sexual inspiration from a shared love object: Pierre-Auguste's last model-muse. Future filmmaker Jean Renoir (a vulnerable Vincent Rottier) is the middle son, recovering from a World War I wound at the family farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1915. Renoir père (affectingly played by Michel Bouquet) is 74, painfully hobbled by arthritis, and grieving the recent death of his wife. Christa Theret plays Andrée, the vibrant, pretty-in-petulance model who revives his creative, if not other, juices; a startling scene reveals he wishes otherwise. Yet the film's real star is the color orange-gold with a touch of russet, making an early appearance as the hair-and-clothing-matched Andrée pedals in the sunlight to her modeling gig. Renoir's set piece shows the artist working on a canvas, with Mark Ping Bing Lee's camera gliding to models in soft focus, a kind of live-action impressionism and a new take on the familiar Bathers. Wisely, director Gilles Bourdos keeps the pace slow, what with all the tensions beneath the surface: Oedipal conflict, career choices, even class struggle. The ambitious Andrée, AKA the future Catherine Hessling of Renoir's silent films, tells Jean she won't marry a "plate painter," but a film director might do.

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Marsha McCreadie

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