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Whenever I want to reassure myself that the movies have the potential to equal the sublime poetic heights of a symphony or concerto by Mozart, or a painting by DaVinci,
Turner or Rembrandt, or a play by Shakespeare, I look at a film by Jean Renoir. From the mid-20s to the late-60s, he made a series of profoundly human masterworks, mainly in
France, but then in America, where he was resident, in Beverly Hills (believe it or not) from 1940 until his death in 1979. Deceptively simple, Renoir’s films were always artless–you never caught him working–they just seemed to flow from some deeply spiritual source.

There really aren’t any pictures better than The Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game, La Bete Humaine, Boudu Saved from Drowning, The Lower Depths, La Marseillaise, The Crime of Mr. Lange, The Southerner, French Cancan, or The River, among others.

The youngest son of the great French Impressionist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean was a saintly man; director Leo McCarey said to me once that he always felt Renoir was too good for this business. I was privileged to be his friend for over a decade, and a few years ago, Peter Kaplan’s The New York Observer published a long, personal piece I did about him, titled The Best Director, Ever. If you’re interested to read more of my take on this exceptional artist, who was Orson Welles’ favorite director, as he is mine, click here and you’ll be linked to the full article.

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Glen Farmer

Love the article. Do you think that Jeremy Larner was paying an homage to “Rules of the Game” in the scene in the “Candidate” with Melvyn Douglas hunting and shooting little furry animals while giving Robert Redford’s character advice?

Rodney Welch

Addendum: I watched “Diary of a Chambermaid” this morning. It’s a light and sprightly picture with a fetching Paulette Goddard, a very nimble and energetic Burgess Meredith, a typically stolid Dame Judith Anderson and a whimpering Irene Ryan. All in all, I thought Bunuel’s 1964 version was a lot stronger. Two directors with two vastly different takes on the Octave Mirabeau novel. Not having read the novel, I suspect Renoir was more faithful to the story and Bunuel shaped it to his own political and surrealistic ends. Nonetheless, his is much more gripping and interesting, and there are images from it that stay in the memory (the snails on the little girl’s leg, for instance.)

Did Renoir ever mention Bunuel’s film to you? Years ago, I read an interview with Burgess Meredith, and he said Renoir was very hurt by Bunuel’s remake. Thoughts?

Rodney Welch

What a fantastic article! Best thing I’ve read in a month. Thanks for writing it — it’s true and it’s inspiring.

I love “The Rules of the Game” and have seen it many times. It’s one of the very few films I know that only gets better with every viewing.

I’ve always loved Renoir — but you really reminded me as to why: that humanity. It’s what I respond to as well in Bresson and in certain films by Bergman and Fellini.

I feel like going on Amazon and buying every Renoir DVD available — or seeing everything available on Netflix.

Again, thank you very much.

Christopher Stilley

It never hurt that he was the son of my favorite Impressionist painter..
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your heart felt tribute to Renoir .Like Rachmaninoff and Wyatt Earp,I’m forever fascinated by the more larger than life historical figures that one day found themselves a part of haunted hollywood..Thank you for inviting us into the happy home of the Master.

Antonio Nahud Júnior

I’m always here. Do not forget your beautiful and dense blog.
Greetings, I hope your visit and comments

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