Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Luscious Renoir is a painting come to life

For everyone who's ever wished they could stroll right into the middle of a lush, sun-drenched Impressionist painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the French film Renoir is the next best thing.

Filmed on location in the south of France, where Renoir lived and painted in the last twenty years of his life, Gilles Bourdos' visually intoxicating film is alive with the extraordinary light and vibrant colors of both the natural world and the robust female forms that distinguish the painter's most beloved work.

True, the storyline rarely rises above Art Bio 101, but it doesn't have to, when every frame of film is such a living, breathing homage to the maestro's work.

 In 1915, the elderly Renoir (Michel Bouquet) has retired to a farmhouse in the verdant countryside above the French Riviera.

So arthritic, he needs gauze tied around his gnarled hands to support the paint brush, and assistants to mix the colors, he is attended by half a dozen competent women—maids who began as models, and vice-versa—who do all the heavy lifting. Literally, they carry the painter in his wheelchair from the farmhouse up the hill to his painting atelier every day; they also do all the cooking and housekeeping for "the Boss."

Along comes Andree (Christa Theret), a pert young redhead with a pearlescent complexion and a modern attitude, to pose for the Boss. Soon, the painter's son, Jean (Vincent Rottiers)—beloved by all the household women—comes home from World War I to convalesce after being wounded at the Front. As blasé as Jean usually is about his father's nude models, the provocative Andree gradually lights a fire under Renoir fils as well.

Father-son dynamics, the suppressed rivalries, resentments, and regrets of family life, erotic young love, and the eternal conflict between the beauty of life and the ugly insanity of warfare are all tossed into the simmering cassoulet of the plot.

Factor in some lovely life-sized women, exquisite fabrics, and voluptuous food, and you have a recipe for one tantalizing visual feast. (Read more in this week's Good Times)

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