Showing posts tagged Jean Renoir
My dream is of a craftsman’s cinema in which the author can express himself as directly as the painter in his paintings or the writer in his books.

Roger Corman just listed his favorite Criterion films and what a list it is.  At #9 is none other than the film I just posted onThe Rules of the Game. I love what he had to say about Renoir’s 1939 film:

"If the game is a film, then what are the rules? According to Renoir, who like Hoyle could load a deck with the best of ’em, you take a cast that presages Altman’s later operatic ensembles, you take an upstairs and downstairs at war through manner and subterfuge, you take a manor house with a camera that has an omniscient sweep—and you get one very fine film that can tell you more about social politics and film in a single two-hour period than Emily Post or a textbook can in a month or a lifetime."

You can see the rest of Corman’s top ten Criterion films here.

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Still from The Rules of the Game (1939)

The Rules of the Game taught me the rules of the game.”

— Robert Altman

Still from The Rules of the Game [La règle du jeu] (1939, dir. Jean Renoir)

Rossellini reinforced a trait already evident in Renoir: the desire to stay as close to life as possible in a fiction film. Rossellini even said that you shouldn’t write scripts—only swine write scripts—that the conflict in a film should simply emerge from the facts. A character from a given place at a given time is confronted by another character from a very different place: and voilá, there exists a natural conflict between them and you start from that. There’s no need to invent anything. I’m very influenced by men like Rossellini—and Renoir—who managed to free themselves of any complex about the cinema, for whom the character, story, or theme is more important than anything else.

"I think Renoir is the only filmmaker who’s practically infallible, who has never made a mistake on film. And I think if he never made mistakes, it’s because he always found solutions based on simplicity—human solutions. He’s one film director who never pretended. He never tried to have a style, and if you know his work—which is very comprehensive, since he dealt with all sorts of subjects—when you get stuck, especially as a young filmmaker, you can think of how Renoir would have handled the situation, and you generally find a solution."

— Francois Truffaut on Jean Renoir

Photo: Truffaut and Renoir on the set of Renoir’s film, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (1959)

One of the frames from one of the BEST long takes in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). I still marvel at the ease and fluidity of the camera movements in this film, especially considering the size of the cameras at the time. 

And I still marvel at the humanity of this film. Taking place during World War I, La Grande Illusion is less about how nationality divides men of war, than it is about class - a topic Renoir was obsessed with.  My favorite scenes are when the prisoners - of varying professions and nationalities - share food with each other, plot an escape (as seen in the still above), and make jokes about their lives at home.

Renoir expands the notion of the war film to encompass the personal lives of the men who participate in war, without actually showing their lives.  It’s an elegant example of how ‘visuals’ can be obtained through so much more than pictures. 

Deep Focus

This frame from Rules of the Game (1939) perfectly captures the gifts of director Jean Renoir.

Deep focus, foreground and background movement, and mise en scene that directs you to the center of this frame even as it seems to go on into the distance.

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