Renoir (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/06/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Leisurely, engaging French drama enlivened by some stunning cinematography and strong central performances from Michel Bouquet and Christa Theret, though it's frustratingly light on plot at times and hampered by a lack of chemistry between Theret and Rottiers.

What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Gilles Bourdos, Renoir is a partial biopic (there really ought to be a name for that) about the twilight years of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet). The film begins in 1915, on the French Riviera, with 74 year old Renoir suffering from severe arthritis in his hands but nonetheless inspired to paint a new series of nudes after the arrival of aspiring actress Dedee (Christa Theret), who has come to pose for him.

Dedee's presence causes something of a stir on the Renoir estate, both among the domestic maids (many of whom had also modelled for Renoir) and in the adolescent loins of Renoir's youngest son Coco (Thomas Doret). However, when Renoir's filmmaker son Jean returns home, injured, from the war, Dedee flirts with him and the pair fall in love.

The Good
Michel Bouquet is excellent as Renoir, particularly when soliloquising about the joys of the flesh or letting fly with the occasional earthy comment. Theret is equally good as Dedee and makes a striking screen presence with her impossibly red hair and her slightly wonky face, while there's strong support from both Rottiers and Doret.

Technically, the film should really have been called Renoirs, since the focus of the film switches to Jean in the second half (he's away at war for the first half) and the story becomes as much about his relationship with his father and the elements that might have fed into his filmmaking (there is, for example, une partie de campagne) as it is about the paintings. In addition, the film looks utterly gorgeous throughout, courtesy of Taiwanese DP Mark Ping Bing Lee's lushly coloured cinematography (there's a beautiful shot of orange and yellow paint spiralling in water as it's rinsed off brushes that you'll wish was available as a screensaver).

The Bad
Bourdos takes a leisurely approach to storytelling, meaning that the film is frustratingly low on plot at times. What's worse is that it sets up a number of interesting ideas (sexual rivalry/envy between father and son, for example) and then fails to explore them properly; the biggest casualty here is Coco, as it's clear the lack of attention from his father coupled with the things he has obviously seen have left him very messed up indeed...except no-one seems to notice.

On top of that, the film is further let down by a lack of chemistry between Rottiers and Doret (though she has engaging chemistry with Bouquet), so the romance element never comes to life, which is unfortunate, particularly given the part Dedee was to play in Renoir's career.

Worth seeing?
Despite the relative lack of plot, Renoir is ultimately worth seeing for the performances and the jaw-droppingly beautiful cinematography.

Film Trailer

Renoir (12A)
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Content updated: 20/07/2018 09:57

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