For the News-Democrat
What It's About
"Renoir" illuminates two very famous artists, father and son Auguste-Pierre and Jean Renoir, at a crossroads juncture in their life. Enter beautiful outspoken Andree (Christa Theret), and we have a muse that inspires both men.
Set on Renoir's farm on the French Riviera in 1915, Andree comes calling soon after the elder Renoir's wife has died. A household staff of women run the show, while the Boss paints with his horribly arthritic hands. Young Jean Renoir, off fighting in World War I, returns home to convalesce after a leg injury.
Headstrong Andree serves as a nude model for the Boss, who loves to capture light on young females, while Jean becomes a filmmaker. Jean is now considered one of the greatest directors of all-time ( "Rules of the Game," "The Grand Illusion"), but back then, film was not held in high regard. He and Andree married, and she starred in his earlier films.
The three main performers are well-suited for their roles. Michel Bouquet portrays the painter in the twilight of his life. He's crotchety but still engaged by his art. Vincent Rottiers is the restless young son while Christa Theret is the force of nature who changes both men's worlds. Theret poses nude several times during the movie, and doesn't exhibit an inkling of any self-consciousness.
A film about art should be beautiful to look at, and it is ultra-lush. The film's exquisite cinematography was handled by Mark Ping Bing Lee.
What Doesn't Work
First-time writer-director Gilles Bourdos spends more time observing than driving a compelling narrative. "Renoir" spends much time on lovely images but lacks in character development.
3 stars out of 4
Director: Gilles Bourdos
Starring: Michel Bouquet, Vincent Rottiers, Christa Theret
Rated: R for sequences of art-related nudity and brief language
In French with English subtitles