Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Renoir (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


The arresting French film "Renoir" is as much about the transformation of the image as it is about the legendary painter. Director Gilles Bourdos (Afterwards) showcases the painter (Michel Bouquet) as he faces his mortality including his interaction with his last model, Catherine Hessling.

The film is beautifully rendered with an eye-popping vibrant spectrum.

Catherine Hessling, here referred to as Andree (Christa Theret) is stormy volatile and inquisitive---her body, an ambulation of cream that is suddenly aflame. She turns the Renoir house upside down.

Renoir paints in a crooked wheelchair that could be made from the branches of a windswept tree. His master's hands bound and corded by a poultice of bandages to appease his arthritis. He is transfixed by a liquid dream of carnal flesh, just out of reach and Renoir talks of skin as if it is sacred dust from a faraway star.

Andree is an uncontainable lioness of flame and buttery form. She is prone to rage and biting repartee.

The handsome son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) has just returned from the war and is wounded at the hip. He doesn't know what to make of Andree but neither does anyone else. Renoir desperately needs her to keep his libidinous dream of light alive, to keep painting, and to refresh his ailing spirit.

Although Renoir does have a bit of melodrama it is never gratuitous or out of place and we see quite a bit of painting and more importantly, a little of what it is like to be a painter.

Visually, the film is almost perfect capturing the aura of a Renoir paintings with wondrous color and shadow, together with long pans and sweeps from the camera.

Also intriguing is the subplot of Jean Renoir and his fascination and with the  new found wonders of the motion picture. Jean, in his shiny uniform and wounded in the war is a person reborn from new technology. His scars heal due to medical science, (fragments of bone were removed) and he is thrilled by the speed of the air force, planes and the sorcery of the moving image. Jean begins to channel his desire for the cinema within Andree who wishes to act.

There are some wonderful scenes here. The bordello section in particular with the shocking sight of a horribly scarred  officer wearing a monocle as he lusts after a naked scene of masochism could be straight from of the art of Expressionist Otto Dix.

Gilles Bourdos is known for taking on unconventional material and doing so with a richness of detail. His film "Disparus" (1998) is a political thriller set against the background of the surrealists in Paris during 1938, and he doesn't disappoint here. The characters are all represented as they might have been without sentimentality, overbearing loudness or weepy drama. The narrative is as well rounded as a Renoir work in the flesh and Bourdos' camera, while having affection for Renoir's breezy swirls, nonetheless retains the piercing attention necessary to capture the artist and his son as two passive animals locked in a vexing contest with the sensual.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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