In France’s Renoir, released in the U.S. in 2013, the beloved impressionist (played by Michel Bouquet) has his new muse Andree (Christa Theret) pose for him regularly. This she does contentedly until Renoir’s middle son Jean (Vincent Rottiers)—the future film director whose movie The Rules of the Game would artistically rival his father’s best paintings—returns from World War I to Renoir pere’s house. There, Andree, who was an actual person, grows infatuated with Jean; frustrated too. (The year is 1915. Pierre-Auguste Renoir is an old man.) We learn, in point of fact, that Andree eventually acted under the pseudonym of Catherine Hessling in Jean’s silent films.
Directed by Gilles Bourdos, Renoir uses the quiet existence of an elderly painter as an avenue for revealing life’s rich pageant. . . Regrettably, an unexciting, insignificant story develops here (Andree and Jean falling for each other), which prevents the movie from being anything like first-rate. Yet Renoir has an unfolding aesthetic power. Bourdos is good at creating unassumingly alluring shots and scenes, and the cinematography of Mark Ping Bing Lee is a sensuous wonder.
Really, present-day France with its economic troubles, etc. may have driven Bourdos and Company to the Gallic past, when things were so different. Indeed, it is worth mentioning there is enough female nudity in the film to enrage a present-day Muslim immigrant in Paris.
(In French with English subtitles)