The premise of Giles Bourdos’ Renoir is simple: it is a cross section focusing on the last four years of the well-known painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s life. During this period Jean – the second child and future famous filmmaker – comes into the picture. Shortly afterward, both father and son become captivated by Andrée Heuchling, a young model who becomes a major muse for both the Renoirs, and eventually Jean’s wife.
The film develops slowly, with just a couple of events shaking the otherwise tranquil life led by the Renoirs on the French Riviera during World War I. It is the account of an easygoing existence which, nonetheless, has its own share of stresses. The painter is now old and consumed by his rheumatoid arthritis, Jean is back home after being wounded in battle, and Andrée grows bored and restless. Renoir subtly conveys these anxieties, revealing little secrets through plain dialogue and the occasional witty remark.
This understated simplicity is perhaps intentional – an attempt to faithfully translate the contents of Renoir’s canvasses into a visual blast of natural colour and sound on the big screen. The cinematography is good and spectators could believe that they are in one of Renoir’s scenes.
Overall, the cast performs well but special mention must be given to Michel Bouquet, who portrays Renoir the father with intensity in spite of his age. Andrée is also excellently portrayed by Christa Théret, whose body is left untouched by post-production pampering – natural and authentic to the end.
Part of the Un Certain Regard’s official selection at the last Cannes Film Festival, Renoir will please both those who are interested in painting and those that aren’t.
Renoir is released nationwide on 14th June 2013.
Watch the trailer for Renoir here: