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Jean Renoir

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 10 years, 11 months ago





September 15, 1894 in Paris, France



February 12, 1979 in Los Angeles, California


Actively Directing:

1924, with Backbiters, through to 1969, with The little theater of Jean Renoir.



Catherine Hessling 1920-1930

Dido Freire



Director, actor, and writer. He is often called "Les plus grands de tous les realisateaurs" or "the greatest of all directors".


Jean Renoir was the son of the famous French painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. His father made the entire family the subjects of his paintings, ending with Renoir's first wife Catherine Hessling. With his father's substantial income, Renoir received a good education from the boarding schools his family sent him to, that is when he was not running away from school. As many young men of the time, Renoir joined his nation in the "war to end all wars". He was part of the French army as a cavalryman and a reconnaissance pilot, from these war experiences he produced the film La Grand Illusion. He wounded his leg and discovered his passion for film by watching the work of Charlie Chaplin. He was encouraged by his father to take up ceramics after the war but he quickly turned to cinema to emulate his hero Eric von Stroheim (1).


His Greatest Success: the 30's 

During the 1930's Renoir created 15 of his 40 films, most noteably La Grande Illusion and Le Regle du Jeu (Rules of the Game). Renoir based many of his films during this decade on the Popular Font, which was the left-wing movement that was somewhat allied with the French Communists (3). With this political alignment, he empathised the experience of the working man. We can see this slight tendency toward the proletariat in La Grande Illusion, we follow the story of Lt. Marechal throughout the film rather than focusing of the strangely alluring dynamic of Capt. de Boeldieu and Capt. von Raufenstein. In La Grande Illusion, Renoir holds to the theme of brotherly love that is inspired by war and confinement. The film follows the French POWs attempts at escape both physically and mentally.



We see that Renoir treats the camera, and in turn the audience, in the view that it is merely apart of the cast rather than the omnipresent auteur giving their vision of the story. Using the camera in this way gives us a sense that Renoir let his political views in the Popular Front bleed into his filmmaking. Perhaps one of the reasons why Renoir is considered the best director of all time not just in French Cinema, is his ability to create a mise-en-scene that reflects the world we live in.



Here we see Jean Renoir explain how he came to create La Grande Illusion. His final words on the film, especially when he emphasises that the story could happen to anyone seems to reflect his Popular Front political stance and gives us another insight into why Renoir would want to have the main focus of the movie on Lt. Marechal instead of the incredible dianamic between Capt. de Boeldieu and Capt. von Rauffenstein.


Final "Reels"

Renoir made his last film "Le petite theatre de Jean Renoir" in 1969, and it was called "one of his most challenging, avant-garde and unconventional works" (1). He spent the last 10 years of his life writing and having good friends visit him. Upon Renoir's death, Orson Welles called Jean Renoir "The greatest of all directors"(1).



As we look at this clip of La Grande Illusion, we see how Renoir uses depth of field (link here) to draw us in closer to the tension between the physically suffering Capt. de Boeldieu and the emotionally suffering Capt. von Rauffenstein. The interaction between the two characters is completely believeable in that they appear to be just as human as we, as are all the other characters that Renoir focuses on including the English Soldier we see for no more than a minute. Renoir creates a world full of detail and complexity that is an almost perfect reflection of our own. Even the use of sound is a perfect fit for the scene. We know the exact moment Capt. de Boeldieu dies based on the non-digetic musicand we can feel the sorrow of Capt. von Rauffenstein base on the same music. As we watch Capt. von Rauffenstein move toward the flower, Renoir uses camera movement to focus our attention to what he feels is important but our shift in focus is accomplished in such a subtle way that it doesn't feel conscious. Renoir's use of camera movement, music and depth of field enhances our experience of the film that it glosses by like silk.


Works Cited

1. "Jean Renoir" Wikipeida.org, n.d. September 22, 2009.

2. "Jean Renoir" Photobucket.com, n.d. September 29, 2009.

3. "Popular Front (France)" Wikipedia.org. n.d. September 28, 2009.

4. "La Grande Illusion (1937)" IMDB.com, n.d. September 29, 2009.


Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 10:00 pm on Sep 30, 2009

* I agree with Air's late edit notes, and would add a call for a clip of Renoir in his fantastic performance in _The Rules of the Game_ (I have a new clips idea, by the way)
* I think the interpretive stuff here is a bit this, and doesn't attend enough to the formal qualities of Renoir's work in the scene (the long takes, the dramatic pan, etc)
* Maybe some attempt, based on what we've seen in _The Grand Illusion_, to understand what makes Renoir so great (and what the main tendencies in that greatness are)--in other words, specifics.

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