Tag Archives: Jean Renoir

XL Popcorn – Boudu Saved From Drowning

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 721/1007Title:  Boudu sauvé des eaux (Boudu Saved from Drowning)
Director: Jean Renoir
Year: 1932
Country: France

When you look at lists of the greatest French directors of all time, the name Jean Renoir is guaranteed to show up. With five films on the 1001 list, it is little wonder that so many people hold him in such high regard. Sadly, having watched Boudu Saved From Drowning, I have now seen the last of the entries on the list. Even sadder is that this is my least favourite film of his, by a country mile.

I have seen it said on a number of film forums that your enjoyment of this still depends heavily on how much you enjoy the central character. Think of the titular Boudu as a French version of Charlie Chaplin’s “the Tramp” but is actually quite vulgar rather than delightful. This is where the film really fell down for me as I really did not like the character. There is no doubt that the central performance of Boudu is incredibly well executed, but I absolutely loathed him within the first 10 minutes he appeared onscreen.

The entire film can be summarised by the saying “no good deed goes unpunished”. In fact, not only is it punished but in a way that in 1932 might have gotten some cheap laughs ,but considering the number of homeless people I pass every day on the way to work – speaks to a view of homeless people that can be quite damaging. The end message of the film is to leave homeless people allowed to live outside all that is the environment in which they are happiest – which as we know is basically bullshit. The other key message is that if you go out of your way to help them they will go out of their way to ruin your home and destroy your life.

So yeah, I took some issue with the subject matter of this film and I’m not even going to get started on the blatant misogyny. There is a scene where the homeless character forces himself onto the wife of the man who save his life. She fights, he persists and then (in typical 1930s fashion) she comes up all a twitter after being cured of her reluctance by his magic penis.

Yes, I know there are sensibilities of the time. However, this is meant to be a comedy and I found the entire film to be unnerving. Some different music and a change in lighting and you’d have the set-up for a good horror movie. A bit of a disappointing way to end my time with Jean Renoir – but I have the other four films that I really enjoyed.

XL Popcorn – La Grande Illusion

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 607/1007
Title: La Grande Illusion
Director: Jean Renoir
Year: 1937
Country: France

Where I don’t get Jean-Luc Godard I really do seem to get Jean Renoir. Sure, The Golden Coach had a bit of a cop out ending, but apart from that I have always been delighted by Renoir’s work. With La Grande Illusion I continue to be impressed by Renoir’s film-making.

I don’t mean to state the obvious to begin with, but La Grande Illusion is one of the most influential anti-war films of all time. It is also one of those anti-war that feels like it could only have been made on the continent.

Why? Well, there are no bells and whistles in this film. We start the film with French officers having been captured by the Germans rather than seeing the military action that led to the capture. You could probably count on two hands the number of shots fired in the two hours. These things are important in La Grande Illusion since it allows this film to be a character piece first and foremost.

Thanks to the strong characterisation of French and German characters La Grande Illusion is able to take a deep dive into looking at class and how it transcends the battle lines. Since the characters we follow are officers in the French army, we don’t really see them being mistreated during their time as prisoners of war. So important is the rank of officer that it affords a certain type of treatment.

Because of this we immediately remove a lot of the animosity towards the Germans and have them be either sympathetic or, at least, reluctant. There are no bad people in this film and that’s what is important. That’s what makes this so anti-war. It focuses so much on how similar the two sides are that, when this film was released, Joseph Goebbels wanted to prevent Germans from seeing this as he feared this film would quash their fighting spirit.

So I’ve come out of writing this post asking myself the question of whether I prefer La Grande Illusion to The Rules of the Game. Honestly, I don’t know as these are such different films. I think a re-watch of The Rules of the Game is needed before I can make such a judgement. Before I get to that – 400 films left on the list.

XL Popcorn – L’Argent / The Golden Coach

Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: L’Argent
Director: Robert Bresson
Year: 1983
Country: France

If you have seen The IT Crowd you may get where I am about to go. If not, you should check out this fake advert for Internet piracy to see where the rest of this “talk up” is going.

They say that money is the root of all evil and going by the poster for this film, which depicts two franc notes with bloodied teeth, you can tell where this film is going. In short it is the story of how an innocent bystander is taken down a path of “evil” after being handed over three counterfeit bills. I can almost see the PSA that could be made about counterfeiting money from edited sections of this film.

One thing that I can appreciate about a lot of French films is subtlety. This is a gross generalisation as there is nothing subtle about Irreversible, but as the stereotyping goes you’re looking for subtle and slow. From the get go the message of the film is about how money can make good people do bad things. For example, I am sure that the owners of the frame store are usually decent people but the actions that they take after being duped by fake currency on three occasions is morally reprehensible. Sure, they get some form of comeuppance but their actions which leads to the corruption of an innocent delivery boy cannot really be excused.

Now I’ve seen some say that this film is about how one act of corruption can cause an innocent person to do terrible things. I wholeheartedly disagree. The main focus of the film had many paths he could have gone down that would have been honest. This includes swallowing some pride and asking for his job back after being so unfairly fired (if he was that desperate for money…) and not getting himself involved in a bank robbery.

I mean, I really feel for him. The perjury that was committed that led to him losing his job is abhorrent, but in this day and age (and I mean 1980s Paris) losing a job does not mean getting involved in a bank robbery within a week. Right? He chose this path of, what he assumed, least resistance. This is where the film failed to completely immerse me. I could not suspend disbelief adequately enough to accept this line of action. Even the ending 10 minutes feels outlandish.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t buy it and I feel that I could be alone here.

Title: The Golden Coach (Le Carrosse d’or)
Director: Jean Renoir
Year: 1952
Country: France

Here was me expecting to do a French language pair and The Golden Coach ends up being an English! It just shows how much I know about cinema, and the works of Jean Renoir, doesn’t it? Apparently an Italian version of this was also created, but the director always preferred the English one.

Jean Renoir is one of a select group of directors to have 5+ films on the 1001 list. Having seen two others it is only apt that I make a comparison. Of the three this is easily the lesser, but there is no shame in this for The Rules of the Game stands as one of my favourite French films. Similarly Partie de Campagne is one of my favourite short films regardless of nationality. So it is safe to say that I appreciate the work of Jean Renoir.

The problem is that the gulf between The Golden Coach and the other two films is rather large. There is no doubting that musically and visually this is an outstanding film. You only have to watch the first 10 minutes to understand what a feast for the eyes this is. It’s just that the central plotline of Camilla and her three suitors would have been better served in a different setting.

I have seen similar ideas in other films before. The woman/man having to choose between a number of lovers of different social standing. The thing is the courting process feels so incredibly brief and the object of their affections is not exactly welcoming.

This is the point I’m going to leap to the defence of Anna Magnani. For the role that she has been given she is outstanding. It can be distracting at times to have such a strong Italian accent delivering these lines in English (in the world of the film she is speaking in Spanish) but the actress is Italian as is her character so it all makes sense.

However, the issue that I have is that she is playing a poor actress (in money not in ability) and she looks like she’s in her forties. It feels incredibly sexist to by saying this, but this isn’t realistic. Especially from the point of view of the viceroy who is willing to give up his title and wealth to be with someone who cannot give him children. If his role had been played and by Anna Magnani when she was 10 years younger I would be all for it. I would be saying this if the roles were reversed and you had three young women going after Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is arguably one of the best actors of his generation, but… you know.

I also had a really big issue with the ending. Suddenly the fourth wall was utterly broken and we have no idea of the fates of the three suitors (as far as we’re aware two of them were gonna be killed). Also after all that Camilla is told that as an actress her true happiness is on stage and not in real life. It just feels like a cop out, which aggravates me after all the groundwork that had been built to lead to the final moments. It’s still a good movie, but there is so much that could have made it exceptional.

Progress: 508/1007