Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer
The film Renoir, like the master’s well-lit paintings, is set in the French Riveria during the summer of 1915.
In the movie, Vincent Rottier plays Jean Renoir, son of the Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet). Back home after an injury in World War I, he becomes enamored with the young model Andrée (Christa Teret) who has also captivated the attention of his father.
From the opening frame, viewers are astonished that the young model is a “gift” from Renoir’s deceased wife. Arriving on a bicycle, she literally pedals her way into the artist’s home and heart.
Although the older man’s hands and body are increasingly pained by rheumatoid arthritis, he can still visually and verbally express a desire for “the flesh, the flesh!”
Father and Son Enamored With Young Model
In one of the most moving scenes, Andrée wants to care for Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s gnarled and inflamed fingers. After she holds ice on them and looks at the painter tenderly, he regretfully announces that she is “too late.” Then, he kisses her hand before she rests her head on his shoulder in an exquisitely simple and honest moment.
The young woman has similarly mesmerized son Jean Renoir, who needs to heal body and soul. He appears placid and direction-less until underlying fury explodes: A peddler suggests making money by offering caskets to families of soldiers for quick burials but encounters Jean’s wrath.
Creative Life and Intertwined Relationships in Idyllic Setting
In the end, Jean’s seemingly unambitious character is pivotal to the story’s resolution. Unlike his younger brother who remains disconnected from his father, Jean Renoir forges a special bond of understanding, particularly during their emotional parting before he re-enlists to support his comrades.
Before Jean leaves, Andrée asks him to promise that he’ll make movies with her after the war. However, bonus material surprisingly notes Jean’s independent success as a filmmaker while she remained in obscurity.
This gorgeously filmed story, in the idyllic French Riveria, reveals the determination of Pierre-Auguste Renoir to continue painting until it was absolutely impossible. The film Renoir also captures the passion and fragility of his life–and intertwined relationships.