A Sumptuously Beautiful Film Called “Renoir”
By Skip Sheffield
“Sumptuously beautiful:” that in a nutshell is a film called “Renoir,” opening May 24 at FAU’s Living Room Theaters.
If you like French Impressionist painting of the late 19th and early 20th century, you will love this factual biographical film by Gilles Bourdos.
There is more than one Renoir in this film. The patriarch is the great painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), who in the summer of 1915 is at the twilight of his life at his estate in Cagnes-sur-mer, but no less creative. The great French actor Michael Bouquet, who is now 87, plays the artist wracked by pain and partially crippled, but still obsessed by his search for and creation of beauty.
He finds his latest inspiration in a stunningly gorgeous young actress named Audree Heuschling (Christa Theret), whom he hires as a model.
Renoir loved to paint “au plein” (outdoors), and he preferred his models to be "dishabille" (unclothed or barely clothed). This evidently led to a lot of hanky-panky earlier in his career, but by this time the artist’s sexual drive has vanished in reality, yet lingers in his fond imagination.
There are three other Renoirs: Jean (Vincent Rottiers), a certified war hero who is on leave because of injuries; a ten-year-old kid brother Claude "
Coco" (Thomas Doret), and an older brother Pierre (Laurent
Apart from Pierre-Auguste’s philosophizing about art, the nature of beauty and the futility of war, “Renoir” is a blossoming romance between Andree and Jean, who are based on real-life characters. In 1915 Jean fantasized about the new art of making films, and he promised Andree she would be his star.
This really happened. Jean Renoir, best-known for “The Grand Illusion,” became a pioneering figure in French cinema and Audree was his leading lady.
But this all happened after 1915. “Renoir” marks the ending of one fabulously creative career and the beginning of another. It is a deliciously enticing package of beauty, romance, duty to family and country and love. If you care anything about these things, “Renoir’ may seduce you.