Jean Renoir

b. September 15, 1894, Montmartre, Paris, France
d. February 12, 1979, Beverly Hills California, U.S.A.

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First Movement: Polemic

Renoir’s films were underestimated when they first came out. They were unconventional, complex, and so energetic and technically daring that few noticed their intricate structure. They were often dismissed as rough, not fully achieved artistically. The generation that came to the cinema in the ’60s and ’70s (perhaps the richest and most diverse era in European cinema) recognised Renoir as an ancestor who had already made the kind of films they admired or were setting out to make themselves, and justly hailed them as masterpieces. Critic David Thomson recalls: “The Renoir retrospective at London’s National Film Theatre in 1962 amounted to the clearest revelation of the nature of cinema that I have ever had.” (1) For Alain Resnais La Règle du jeu (1939) “remains, I think, the single most overwhelming experience I have ever had in the cinema.” He continues:

When I first came out of the theatre, I remember, I just had to sit on the edge of the pavement; I sat there for a good five minutes, and then I walked the streets of Paris for a couple of hours. For me, everything had been turned upside down. All my ideas about the cinema had been changed. Whilst I was actually watching the film, my impressions were so strong physically that I thought that if this or that sequence were to go on for one shot more, I would either burst into tears, or scream, or something. Since then, of course, I’ve seen it at least fifteen timeslike most filmmakers of my generation. (2)

An unfortunate future result of this adulation, coming during the days when film was starting to become academically and intellectually respectable, was that Renoir’s films would ultimately become enshrined as “classics,” worthy objects for academic study, rather than sources of vital emotional and intellectual experience. Now, in an era when producers, financiers and commissioning editors exhibit the most abject conformity, and exciting work is locked up in a ghetto far away from the mainstream lest it should spread infection, the wheel has come full circle. Lip service is paid to Renoir as a master, but few encountering his work for the first time seem able to recognise or appreciate its humour, passion or significance. We are all the poorer. Great art is alive. It informs and generates passions: witness the response to the recent New York production of Arturo Ui, a play by Renoir’s friend Bertolt Brecht. La Règle du jeu, made on the eve of war to illustrate the notion “We are dancing on a volcano,” (3) has, sadly, as much or more to say about the modern world as it said about the world of 1939, when it aroused such passions as to lead to its being effectively booed off the screen, then banned by the censorship as “demoralizing”. This was clear even before 9/11, though before then the threat seemed more distant, and probably ecological. Renoir’s vision of the modern world, with its intrusive media reporters, in which “Everyone lies…, drug company prospectuses, governments, the radio, the cinema, newspapers…” (4) and of a society absorbed in its own conventions, hypocrisies and cover-ups, peopled by individuals who, though often charming and likeable, have been made complacent by affluence, is as up-to-date, radical and potentially disturbing as ever. It is, still, an “exact description of the bourgeois of our time.” (5) In 1939 audiences were outraged. Now, they don’t seem to notice, or care.

Octave (Renoir) and Marceau (Carette) going into "exile" at the end of La Règle du jeu

These days, people are likely to encounter Renoir’s work for the first time on television or video rather than in the cinema. In these low information, small screen formats, the energetic ensemble acting characteristic of his films often seems merely busy. The humour and much of the richness of characterisation derive from interplay between dialogue and the visual image (which communicates gesture and movement). For an anglophone audience, even when the subtitles communicate the dialogue accurately, the pace of the interaction and the impeccable timing of the delivery of the lines are lost. Thus the wit that is a key component of the hypnotic power of Jules Berry as Batala (in Le Crime de Monsieur Lange [1936]), one of the greatest performances in all cinema, is largely dissipated. Inadequate subtitling has contributed to the misunderstandings that have devitalised Une Partle de campagne (1936). A crucial early exchange is not translated. It establishes Henri (Georges Darnoux) and Rodolphe (Jacques Brunius dit Borel) as regular visitors to the country inn around which the action occurs, who can pack their bags and go elsewhere on their trips out of town. Without this knowledge, modern viewers fail to recognise them as affluent men about town, despite other relevant snatches of dialogue, and the fact that they are wearing the 19th-century equivalent of Lacoste T-shirts and designer jeans, in contrast to Anatole (Paul Temps) and Monsieur Dufour (Gabriello), even more uncomfortable in their Sunday best than those aspirants to gentility on whom they are modelled, Laurel and Hardy. In Renoir’s art, every line of dialogue, every action, every detail of dress, gesture, posture and setting needs to be taken into account if story, theme and characterisation are not to be misunderstood. This is particularly so as characters may joke about themselves—Henri telling Henriette (Sylvia Bataille) he’s in business with Rodolphe—or lie—Christine (Nora Grégor) in La Règle du jeu convincing Geneviève (Mila Parély) she’s known all along about the latter’s affair with her husband. Some viewers believe her, despite the fact that her voice is shrill with strain, and other sequences clearly establish she has not been aware of the relationship until that afternoon.

One might hope that academics and film students would take a lead in appreciating, communicating and attempting to emulate the richness of Renoir’s art. But all too often they suffer from the constraints indicated above, and bear the added burden of having to engage with certain films as an academic duty. Moreover, there’s the nature of the engagement the academy seems to require, with films all too often stifled by the clammy embrace of a verbal discourse that has no place for the discussion of beauty, poetry, passion or humour. Renoir has created many of the most memorable and moving moments in the history of cinema, and these should be the first object of study, rather than arguments about how “auteurists” have turned “a discontinuous body of work” into an oeuvre. (6) Frankly, who gives a damn? Renoir’s own vision of his authorial role, as reported by his long-time collaborator, his “accomplice” and “companion on the road,” the production designer Eugène Lourié, reveals the irrelevance of such concerns: “Often Renoir compared the functions of a film director with those of a chef in a restaurant. A chef can create great meals, but they are also the result of his collaboration with his helpers, the meat chefs, the wine stewards, the saucemakers, and the rest.” (7) Great meals also require great ingredients, and these Renoir typically had little difficulty in locating, drawing on classics of literature, theatre and painting. Sometimes these were explicitly acknowledged, sometimes summoned from a storehouse of memories and observations from life and friends, in a process of recall quite possibly outside the artist’s conscious awareness. Moreover, his successive partners provided him with a succession of concerns and themes. First there was the non-naturalistic acting of his first wife, Catherine Hessling, contributing to the stylization of his silent films, and his flirtation with avant garde aesthetics. Then came the red-blooded socialism of his brilliant collaborator, editor Marguerite Houlé, often known as Marguerite Renoir. Finally the religious feelings of his second wife Dido Freire. One source of the meaningfully structured emotional confusions of La Règle du jeu may have been Renoir’s movement away from Marguerite and towards Dido. Others include drama, stretching at least from Beaumarchais to Pirandello; French baroque music: “I wanted to film people whose movements were in tune with that music,” (8) material absorbed during the making of his previous film, an adaptation of Zola’s La Bête humaine (1938); the historical conjuncture, his responses to it, and those of his collaborators including the emotional condition of his leading actress, Nora Grégor, a political refugee whose life had fallen apart, and who was thus under great stress.

La grande illusion: Maréchal (Jean Gabin) has abandoned Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) after indulging in an anti-semitic tirade, leaving him, and human solidarity, temporarily alone on the edge of an abyss

What makes Renoir’s work unusual among filmmakers, if not unique, is the diversity of the materials he draws upon during the realization of an individual project, and his ability to blend these elements together so that each works on the viewer but none obtrudes. Partly this is a result of the pleasure his art generates: with so much to perceive and enjoy there’s little time and space for the analysis of sources! However a serious analysis of his art needs to draw attention to the emotional impact and intensity of such moments as that when the German patrol looms into frame at the end of La Grande illusion (1937). One experiences a numbing moment of shock as the patrol starts to fire at the tiny figures of Maréchal (Jean Gabin) and Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) plodding through the snow towards freedom; have all their ingenuity, struggles and hardships been in vain? Then a gasp of relief at the order to ceasefire. Yet this in turn is tempered by a visual reminder of the smallness of the escapers’ achievement, diminished by the vastness of the landscape around them, and of the futility of Maréchal’s stated ambition (to make 1914-18 the war to end wars), to say nothing of the arbitrary cause of their survival, an invisible man-made frontier. So little screen time, so many meaningful emotional and thematic resonances! Just describing the action makes my eyes fill with tears, first of anguish, then of relief.

And there are so many comparable moments, different but equally affecting. In La Règle du jeu, for example, another instance of the strain communicated by Christine’s voice, this time as she utters the name “André Jurieu” in response to an enquiry about the identity of a new arrival at La Colinière. She and the man who wants to be her lover hesitate rather than move to greet each other, separated by the length of the hall. Then Octave (Jean Renoir), friend to both, arrives and breaks the space between them as he and Christine move to embrace each other in greeting. A spatial and social barrier is overcome, and Christine freed to move on to greet her potentially embarrassing guest. And another moment, later, with Octave on the steps outside the chateau, carried away by his impersonation of Christine’s father, the great conductor Stiller; suddenly a cut slightly closer and to a new angle as he freezes at the climax of his impersonation, then slumps in despair, remembering his failure to fulfil his dreams, realizing he will never experience contact with an audience. Later still, Octave again, when, harangued by the self-serving arguments of the maid Lisette (Paulette Dubost), the sight of his face in the mirror convinces him he should give Christine up to his younger friend, the heroic aviator André (Roland Toutain).

Then, in Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, the memorable passage, one of the most beautiful in all cinema, poetic in its narrative and thematic condensation, which moves from Batala’s abandonment of his devoted secretary and lover Edith (Sylvia Bataille) to the seduction of Lange (René Lefèvre) by Valentine (Florelle). Edith stands trying to smother her sobs with her handkerchief as the train pulls out. A man, a sleazy parody of the wealthy businessman (Jacques Brunius) she has already said disgusts her, spots her. The camera moves closer as he approaches. He’s almost obscene: his words are designed to console her but there’s no comfort in his voice, whilst his face and movements show he is gloating as he examines his prize. Precisely the kind of pimp Batala has suggested she find for her future. Cut to a new angle, but still a close two-shot. The camera tracks before them as they leave the station, Edith composing herself as she walks with grim determination towards her future. It holds as the couple leave the frame, picking up a passing priest as music starts over. This leads into a song about life on the streets whilst a push-off (an optical effect very similar to a wipe; both newly made possible by the development of the optical printer) carries us from the station to the exteriors of the courtyard which is the setting for most of the film’s action. The camera pans to a window, then moves inside to reveal Valentine as the singer, serenading Lange. Her song concludes, and there’s a cut closer and to a new angle as she moves closer to quiz him about his relationships. Lange turns away from her, initially frozen in fear and isolation, a moment of impotence, but he is quickly thawed by her attentions.

Memorable though such moments are, Renoir’s cinema is not merely one of memorable moments. Each is a contributing part of an elegant and intricate structure of representation. Ophuls’ image of the master of ceremonies and the stalled roundabout in La Ronde (1950) seems a simplistic metaphor when juxtaposed with La Règle du jeu‘s use of mechanical imagery and a consideration of Octave/Renoir’s role in the mechanisms of the film. Who arranges Andre’s invitation to La Colinière? Octave. Whose playful jostling after the shoot changes the direction of Christine’s gaze through the spy-glass, causing her to witness the farewell kiss between her husband and Geneviève? Octave’s. We, who have heard the dialogue preceding the kiss, know its significance, but Christine, with only visual evidence to judge by, understandably misinterprets what she sees. A moment of intense narrative and dramatic import can also be read as a meditation upon the relation in the cinema between narrative context, verbal information and the meaning conveyed by the visual image. This is great art at its most forceful and complex.

Second Movement: Life and Films

Jean was the second son of Pierre-Auguste and Aline Renoir. His elder brother, Pierre, became a distinguished theatre and cinema actor, the screen’s first Maigret in Jean’s adaptation of La Nuit du carrefour (1932). He also appeared for his brother as Charles Bovary, and as Louis XVI in La Marseillaise (1938). Their younger brother, Claude Renoir Senior (“Coco”) was born in 1901 and quickly relieved Jean of the often uncongenial duties of acting as one of his father’s principal models. In the ’30s he was an assistant director or producer on several of Jean’s films. Pierre’s son, Claude Renoir Junior, became a distinguished cinematographer, also working on many of Jean’s ’30s films, sometimes (on the lower budget projects) as director of photography, sometimes as an assistant who, nevertheless, often had the important task of orchestrating his uncle’s complex camera-movements. Their collaboration recommenced when Jean returned to work in the old world in the ’50s.


Before: Jean in 1900. Painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoirand After... Jean in 1901. Painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

My father loved to paint my hair, and his fondness for the golden ringlets which came down to my shoulders filled me with despair. At the age of six, and in spite of my trousers, many people mistook me for a girl. Street urchins ran jeering after me, calling me ‘Mademoiselle’ and asking me what I had done with my skirt. I impatiently awaited the day when I was to enter the College de Sainte-Croix, where regulations required a hairstyle more suited to middle-class ideals. To my great disappointment my father constantly postponed the date of my entry, which for me signified the blissful shedding of those locks…

“…On a morning like many another my father announced that he was going to paint my portrait. I protested, pretending that I had a sore leg, and to prove it I limped ostentatiously. But my father was determined to paint me, and the whole household, not wishing him to be put off, tried to persuade me. Suddenly Gabrielle had an idea. I had a camel which I adored… a toy no bigger than my hand … Gabrielle said between two of my sobs: ‘You ought to make a coat for your camel. The weather’s getting cold and it will soon be winter. Your camel simply must have a coat.’ The idea delighted me. I sat down in front of my father’s easel and began sewing.(9)

Gabrielle was Jean’s beloved nurse, a distant relative of his mother. She was sixteen when she joined the household shortly before Jean’s birth. It was she who took him to Guignol (the French equivalent of Punch and Judy); years later she reminded him he was sometimes so excited when the curtain went up that he wet his pants. She also introduced him to melodrama, which he adored, and tried earlier to introduce him to the cinema, but at the age of two he found the experience terrifying, and only started to enjoy films (particularly slapstick) at the age of nine, during screenings at school. Gabrielle he associated with games, walks, piggy-back rides, his mother with discipline. He played with lead soldiers, and read adventure stories.

In 1913, attracted by his love of uniforms and horses, he enlisted in the dragoons, and passed his exams to become an officer the next year, just in time for World War I. He was severely wounded by a sniper in 1915, and believes it was only a visit to the hospital by his mother that saved his life. She was so vehement in her opposition to the amputation of his gangrenous leg that the authorities changed his doctor and his treatment. He was to limp for the rest of his life. Aline, who had been diagnosed as diabetic, fell into her last illness when she returned home, and Renoir believes it was her exhausting trip to save him that killed her. Pierre also suffered a crippling wound (in the arm) about the same time.

Renoir convalesced in Paris, mainly in an apartment rented by his father, who, though he was now in a wheelchair as a result of his arthritis, had come to the capital to be near his two sons. Jean spent much of his time watching his father paint, and, after the light had gone, talking, exchanging stories and experiences. Then Jean signed on again, to return to action in the air force, first as an observer, then, having fasted for a week to meet the requirements on weight, as a pilot. On leave in Paris before being sent to train as a pilot, he, accompanied by Pierre, discovered the genius of “Charlot,” Charlie Chaplin. Later, after a crash-landing had aggravated his wounds, he was withdrawn from active service, and stationed in Paris, where he was able to catch up on all of Chaplin’s films, and became a passionate film fan.

Earlier, on leave at Les Collettes, near Cagnes-Sur-Mer on the Côte d’Azur, where his father had spent his winters since purchasing the property in 1907, he met Andrée Heuchling, known affectionately as Dedée, a teenage refugee from Alsace and the war. She had started modelling at Nice, and called on Matisse, who was looking for a young model. He immediately recognised her as the right physical type for Auguste Renoir, and suggested she visit him. Sources dispute whether she modelled for the painter. Jean was sure she did, and mentions Les Grandes baigneuses (1918); his biographer, Ronald Bergan, following the testimony of Dedée’s best friend Alice Burpin, later Figheira, is extremely dubious. What is certain is that she quickly became a member of the household, and very close to Auguste Renoir, bandaging his arthritic hands (in his last years, his brushes had to be strapped to his hands), carrying him from his bed to the chair where he painted, and arguably inspiring his last “radiant” paintings, as well as the rest of the household, with her gaiety and beauty. (10)

After the Armistice, Jean returned to Les Collettes, where he, Dedée and Claude started to work as potters, Auguste having had a studio and an oven installed in an outhouse. Though he continued painting till hours before his death, Auguste Renoir was in continual pain and declining health. He died in December 1919. Dedée and Jean were married a few weeks later. They continued their work in ceramics, even after moving closer to Paris, near the forest of Fontainebleau, following the birth of their son Alain in October 1921. Gabrielle and her husband (the American painter Conrad Slade) were living nearby, and soon Paul Cézanne Junior and his family joined them, buying a property nearby.

Jean and Dedée went to the cinema nearly every day, and were particularly absorbed by American films. However in 1923 Jean found a French film he admired, and which made him decide to abandon pottery for the cinema. This was Le Brasier ardent (1923), co-directed by Russian émigrés Ivan Mosjoukine—he of the experiments conducted by Kuleshov and Pudovkin and described by the latter (11)—and Alexander Volkov. It combined respect for the actor with the technical effects some directors were experimenting with in the desire to develop film language, including superimposition and non-naturalistic sets.

He had already started documenting his wife’s beauty in stills and home movies, so the idea she should become a star like the American beauties whose work obsessed them seemed the logical next step. Initially he planned only to provide finance for vehicles which would achieve this, but, unable to find an appropriate screenplay, he wrote one himself—for Catherine—then another—for La Fille de l’eau. This he again financed, and decided to direct himself (1925), having repeatedly interfered with the work of the director of the first, Albert Dieudonné (1924).

Dedée had taken the name Catherine Hessling, as they thought it sounded American. In his memoirs, Renoir pays tribute to her abilities as an actress, and describes how they worked together:

Catherine’s acting was a form of mime. She had taken a great many dancing lessons and her body possessed a professional suppleness. With her we had conceived a mode of expressing the emotions which had more to do with dancing than with cinema… I wanted films based photographically on sharp contrasts. I went so far as to restrict Catherine’s make-up to an extremely thick white base, with all other tints rendered in black, including the pinks and reds… She became a kind of puppet—a puppet of genius, be it said—entirely black and white. I thought: ‘Since the cinema is black and white, why photograph other colours?(12)

In 1924, inspired by repeated viewings of Foolish Wives (Erich von Stroheim, 1921), he started to draw on the traditions of French realism, and set up Nana (1926), a big-budget adaptation of the novel by Emile Zola. This was shot in Germany at a time when German capital was becoming increasingly important for French production. Some critics now regard this film as one of his greatest, and certainly one of his most radical formally. Nevertheless, it was a commercial failure which left him with debts that could only be paid by selling some of his father’s paintings. Subsequently Renoir found it necessary to earn a living from filmmaking. Although he was able to direct some shorter, experimental projects (Charleston [1927], La Petite marchande d’allummettes [1928]) he also found it necessary to take on several projects not much to his liking—Marquitta (1927), a vehicle for his brother Pierre’s second wife; Le Tournoi (1928), a medieval epic, which does reveal an early interest in setting the action in depth and shooting action in front of a doorway revealing an adjoining room; and most depressingly, Le Bled (1929), a hymn to France’s colonial penetration of Algeria. The latter was edited by Margaret Houlé, his future partner. His friend, the independent producer Pierre Braunberger, also gave him the chance to direct a farce about military conscripts. Tire au flanc (1928), based on a long-running stage success. On this, he worked with Michel Simon for the first time.

Renoir’s preference for combining friendship with collaboration was to serve him well throughout his career. The fact that the large conglomerates had failed to establish dominance over production, distribution and exhibition left a space for the contribution of independent producers and financiers. Though the industry was often over-dependent on foreign capital, and new companies were often set up which were small and under-capitalised, filmmakers nevertheless had a chance of finding a one-off investor or group of investors willing to support an adventurous project. This allowed Renoir to make several of his major films. After an extended period of inaction (apart from acting, and a trip to Berlin, where he met Brecht) he was eventually given his first chance to direct sound films by Braunberger, who had established a company through a merger with a regional distributor, Richebé.

Unlike many directors who had worked during the silent era, Renoir welcomed the coming of sound. In his memoirs he suggests the voice is “the most direct expression of a human being’s personality” (13) and stresses the virtues of direct sound over dubbing and re-voicing, crediting here the influence of Joseph de Bretagne, who was an assistant on the sound team on his first sound film On purge bébé (1931; a free translation of the title would be Time for Baby’s Laxative; he describes the film as a kind of “examination” set on him before he could go on to more personal projects like La Chienne the same year). De Bretagne “was to have a share in nearly all my future French productions and played a large part in my film education.” (14) Renoir had planned Catherine Hessling and Michel Simon for the leading roles in La Chienne. His decision not to abandon the project when the studio insisted on casting not his wife but an actress they had under contract caused the final breakdown of his marriage.

Boudu sauvé des eaux: Boudu (Michel Simon) and Lestingois (Charles Granval)

In La Chienne, Renoir experimented with the use of direct sound recorded on location. Facilities for re-recording and sound-mixing were not available, so, like many directors in the early days of sound, when within a scene he wanted to cut between different camera-angles and distances, he had to shoot with multiple cameras, all synchronised to a single soundtrack. (15) The film’s use of location sound ensured that the individual drama was played out within a social context that was clearly articulated both aurally and visually (a vibrantly alive Montmartre). In subsequent films, Renoir had sections of the sets for the interiors of his protagonists’ homes built on location, and shot through doors or windows to link the interior visually with the exterior. Lourié has written about this aspect of their collaboration, (16) but examples of the practice can be seen in several films he did not design: Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932), Madame Bovary (1933), Une Partie de campagne, La Marseillaise.

La Chienne was so controversial dramatically and technically that Renoir was only able to save it from Richebé, who had arranged for it to be re-edited, by appealing, at Braunberger’s suggestion, to the company’s principal investor, a shoe manufacturer. His description of the situation led to the decisive support of the latter’s mistress. Once saved, however, the film still only found commercial success as a result of the actions of a friendly cinema-owner, who devised an unorthodox publicity campaign featuring descriptions of the film as “so horrifying… it was not suited to sensitive viewers.” (17)

Renoir then obtained private finance for the first-ever adaptation of one of Simenon’s Maigret novels, La Nuit du carrefour. Michel Simon and a friend financed Boudu sauvé des eaux. Simon had played Boudu on the stage, and wanted to play him on screen. Like so many Renoir films, it took three decades to find its audience; now it is one of the best loved films of its era.

Financial pressures led Renoir to take on Madame Bovary (he was suggested by his brother Pierre, who was playing Charles Bovary). The final cut ran three hours; the producers wanted to release it at that length, but the distributors insisted that it be cut down by about an hour. Renoir commented: “Once cut the film seemed much longer than before.” One who saw and admired Renoir’s original cut was Brecht, by then an exile from Nazism. (18)

Le Crime de Monsieur Lange: publisher Batala (Jules Berry) demands more blood from his illustrator (Jean Dasté)

From the middle of the 1930s, as democracy became threatened by the rise of fascism, Renoir’s concern with the spatial and social context of his dramas acquired an explicitly political dimension. Le Crime de Monsieur Lange was made in collaboration with the Groupe Octobre, a left-wing theatre group including the poet-dramatist Jacques Prévert, who co-scripted from a story by set-designer Jean Castanier. The film is built around a group of characters living and/or working around a central courtyard (Castanier’s story was called “Sur le cour“). They represent a microcosm of society, and their lives and consciousness are transformed when a co-operative (involving both workers and capitalists) replaces an exploitative and corrupt employer, Batala. Fascist rhetoric is deflated by being placed in the mouth of this swindler. Lange himself changes from a depressed employee and unworldly dreamer into a successful writer of pulp westerns in which his hero, Arizona Jim, is consistently on the side of the down-trodden and exploited. His transformation evokes the 1930s politicization of artists and intellectuals in opposition to fascism, including that of Renoir himself, responding as he did to the influence of his new partner, Marguerite Houlé. She was from a working class background, and a campaigner for female suffrage. The latter was only achieved in France following the Liberation.

Le Crime de M. Lange is now admired for its technical and aesthetic ambitions: improvisation; ensemble acting; staging in depth (though no true deep-focus); sweeping tracks and pans (though none of these is the 360° pan described by Bazin, writing from memory in his sick bed a couple of days before he died). In fact, it is Renoir’s most Brechtian film, an extended lehrstück (teaching play) disguised as a humanist comic melodrama. It exalts people’s justice over the letter of the law, and justifies murder in the defence of revolution. Aspects of this issue had already been explored by Brecht in his lehrstücke; shortly after, W.H. Auden labelled such action “necessary murder.”

Ironically, when released, Le Crime de M. Lange received more attention from the fascist periodical L’Action française than from the Communist L’Humanité. The latter was more interested in the forthcoming 1936 elections, and promoting screenings of Renoir’s next project, the Party’s campaign film for these elections, La Vie est à nous, whose message was more in tune with the party line, less radical.

Renoir supervised the shooting of La Vie est à nous, then wrote and recorded the French-language commentary for Ciné-Liberté‘s release of The Spanish Earth (Terre d’Espagne, 1937), Joris Ivens’ documentary about life in the government-held areas during the Spanish Civil War. During this period he, like many other filmmakers, was active in the campaigns for legislation to reform the film industry organised by Ciné-Liberté. These intensified after the Popular Front government took power in 1936. Policies proposed included ending the quota on imported films, and taxing them instead, to support French production.

There was also a call for an immediate end to the film censorship, which had been responsible for denying licenses authorizing public screenings of films such as Zéro de conduite (1933), Jean Vigo’s anarchist account of his schooldays, La Vie est à nous, which was shown widely, but only to restricted audiences, and the Soviet classics. (The surrealist masterpiece L’Age d’or [1930], directed by Luis Buñuel, had been banned by the Paris police under a different law, following riots in the cinema where it was being screened).

Ironically, though the Popular Front never enacted any relevant legislation, ideas developed then were adopted by the Vichy regime of Marshal Pétain, which came to power during the fall of France and collapse of the Third Republic in 1940, and gave a model to systems of financial support for independent filmmakers still in place today. These played an important role in the development of the nouvelle vague.

La Règle du jeu: La Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio) and Octave (Renoir) in the Hôtel de la Chesnaye, during the scene when the fatal invitation to Jurieu is agreed upon

1936 saw the start of Renoir’s collaboration with Jean Gabin, in France an increasingly important star. This eventually made possible La Grande illusion (1937), a production which, unlike most of Renoir’s films, was a success from its first release. Gabin loved both the role he was to play and the story, which grew out of the experiences of Renoir’s old World War I flying buddy, Colonel Pinsard, and his many escapes from Prisoner of War camps. Nevertheless it took three years to find finance. Renoir asserts that it was only because the financier, Rollmer, and his assistant, Albert Pinkévitch, were not in the industry, and therefore lacked its prejudices about what might be successful, that they backed the film. Pinkévitch often visited the set during shooting, and his wit and anecdotes played a major role in the development of the character of the wealthy Jewish officer Rosenthal, and thus, one can suggest, in that of Christine’s husband La Chesnaye in La Règle du jeu as well.

La Grande illusion went on to have a special prize created for it at the Venice Festival (Mussolini apparently liked it; however, the authorities at Venice did not wish to offend the Nazis by giving a major prize to an anti-war, internationalist film). It was voted best foreign film at the New York World’s Fair, and caused President Roosevelt, after a private screening at the White House, to declare: “All the democracies of the world must see this film.” (19) It remains Renoir’s best-known and most popular film. It is a plea, as much to the reactionary forces inside France as to those outside, on behalf of the egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, and against anti-semitism, the religion of the Nazis. These ideals, Renoir suggests in La Marseillaise, a film initially financed by trade union subscriptions, are heroically embodied in the ordinary people, not the powerful and charismatic national leader glorified by another great French director, Abel Gance, in his 1927 silent masterpiece Napoléon, which had been re-released in 1935 in a sound version which underlined its political message. (20)

At first glance it seems surprising that, particularly in the ’30s, when many politically conservative films were commercially successful, Gance was so much less able than Renoir to protect the artistic independence both craved. Certainly Renoir’s projects and ambitions usually matched his financial resources. The space he grants actors for their own creative input gives his films a lighter, more human and amusing surface; their seriousness tends not to be immediately apparent, being embedded in their structure rather than foregrounded, as is the case in Gance’ s work. Only very occasionally, as in La Marseillaise, does he show interest in the spectacle that was so important to Gance. Fewer than half-a-dozen shots are fired in La Grande illusion, one of the greatest of war films, and there are no combat sequences; in some sequences here, as well as in other films, he is able to economise financially by using sound to suggest the presence of a crowd of extras. Moreover, his most artistically ambitious films, unlike those of Gance, typically run to a standard commercial length: an hour and a half to two hours.

The commercial success of another film starring Gabin, an adaptation of Zola’s La Bête humaine, encouraged Renoir, his younger brother Claude, and three friends to invest in the creation of a new production company, Nouvelle Edition Française. The plan was to involve other directors, and actors such as Gabin, and make two independent films a year. There were plans to negotiate exclusive use of a large Paris cinema owned by Marcel Pagnol’s independent, Marseilles-based company, with which Renoir had worked earlier when making Toni (1934), a compelling forerunner of Italian neo-realism. Founded on the runaway success of the filmic adaptation of Pagnol’s stage-play Marius (1931), this company had, throughout the ’30s, enjoyed a consistent run of commercial successes, perhaps because its films, though full of life and personality, were not too ambitious or demanding artistically.

The first production of the new company was La Règle du jeu. Initially it was conceived as an adaptation of de Musset’s stage comedy Les Caprices de Marianne. Renoir has written that during the shooting he was torn between two conflicting desires, to make a comedy and to tell a tragic story. This tension resulted in probably his most complex work: “It’s a war film; nevertheless there’s not a mention of war in it. Beneath its benign appearance, this story strikes at the very structure of our society.” (21) Even the smallest elements of plot and characterization work together, as if in a marvellous mechanical construction, to precipitate the murder of a national hero. This image of a society running as out of control as a runaway train eerily anticipates the national disaster to befall France a year later. It also echoes the passage with which Zola ended La Bête humaine, a train full of drunken soldiers on the way to what was to be the debacle at Sedan, pulled by an engine with no one in control because the driver and fireman have killed each other in a drunken, jealous brawl. Renoir replaced this with a conclusion more in keeping with the dignity of labour, one based on an incident he witnessed when starting on the preparation of the film. (22) He has the fireman (Julien Carette) succeed in bringing the train safely to a halt following the suicide of the driver, his friend Lantier (Jean Gabin). Even here, with deterministic subject matter and after the collapse of the Popular Front, the changes Renoir made from Zola’s novel distanced him from the fatalism of the prevailing school of French filmmaking, poetic realism. Only with La Règle du jeu, on the eve of war, did his vision incorporate the poetic realists’ fatalism, but in a structure more complex and with characters more controversial than any of theirs. Renoir’s protagonists are no group on the margins of society, but high society itself; his doomed hero no army deserter—as in Carné’s Quai des brumes (1938), which he had furiously denounced (23)—or factory-worker destroyed by sexual jealousy, but a national hero.

La Règle du jeu: Christine (Nora Grégor) deceives Geneviève (Mila Parély), pretending she has known about the latter's affair with Robert La Chesnaye all along

La Règle du jeu is all the more disturbing because so many of the characters are so likeable, their repeated inability to make a correct or decisive choice (echoing the political indecisiveness of the nation itself) resulting from generosity and understanding. Not surprisingly, audiences found the film’s vision, and its changes of pace and tone, from drawing-room comedy through farce to tragedy and cover-up, intolerable. In despair, Renoir told Marguerite to recut the film, omitting the passages most offensive to the audience. Unfortunately a series of delays, caused by bad weather on location, then by Renoir’s development of new scenes, had caused the production to secure additional funding from Jean Jay at Gaumont, as an advance against proceeds from exhibition. Whilst this had not undermined Renoir’s independence during the shooting, it had already led to cuts from Renoir’s preferred edit before the film opened. After six weeks the government banned the film, arguing the need: “to avoid representations of our country, our traditions, and our race that change its character, lie about it, and deform it through the prism of an artistic individual who is often original but not always sound.” (24) At the time this happened Renoir was in Italy, responding to a personal appeal from a government official! A few days later, despite his self-declared pacifism, he was back in uniform, a reservist mobilized for the war. Thus La Règle du jeu became the only production of Nouvelle Edition Française.

For many years, the only prints available were more than half-an-hour shorter than Renoir’s initial cut. Fortunately in 1956 the discovery of 224 boxes of out-takes which had survived an Allied bombing raid led to the creation of a version which was lacking only one minor scene that Renoir had wished to include. Thus La Règle du jeu, possibly the greatest film of the first century of cinema, was restored to life.

After a brief recall to the colours, Renoir returned to Italy to shoot Tosca (1940), with Michel Simon as Scarpia. The government hoped, wrongly, that such cultural collaborations would help keep Italy out of the war. Following the Fall of France, the American father of documentary, Robert Flaherty, helped Renoir flee to Hollywood. He was accompanied by his new partner, Dido Freire, whom he subsequently married, and with whom he spent the rest of his life. They made their home in California, and Renoir became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1946, though retaining his French citizenship. He found Hollywood’s working methods uncongenial, and he made a mere six films in the U.S.A. Of these, only two were for major studios, and in each case a two-picture deal ended after a single film. A third was an instructional film for the Office of War Information, aimed to inform U.S. servicemen about France. The other three were independent productions. Darryl Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century-Fox, Renoir’s first studio, summed up his Hollywood career thus: “Renoir has plenty of talent, but he’s not one of us.” (25) Nevertheless, several of these films are of great interest, particularly This Land is Mine (1943), an attempt to evoke for an American audience conditions in occupied Europe and Vichy France, The Southerner (1945), and The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), based on a stage adaptation of an important French novel by Octave Mirbeau.

When Hollywood seemed to have lost interest in his work, private finance once again led to the realization of one of Renoir’s projects. Unable to sell his idea for an adaptation of Rumer Godden’s novel The River, based on her childhood in Bengal, to any Hollywood producer—he comments that: “in every case the response was the same—India without elephants and tiger-hunts was just not India” (26)—he was about to give up on it when a businessman called Kenneth McEldowney contacted him. McEldowney, who owned a chain of florist shops, wanted to make a film about India, where he had served during the war, but had discovered Renoir had already taken out an option on Godden’s novel. He financed a research trip Renoir made to India, and agreed the novelist should collaborate on the screenplay, decisions which eased Renoir’s task when it came to persuading Godden to allow the project to go ahead. She had hated the previous adaptations of her work: Enchantment (Irving Reis, 1940, produced by Samuel Goldwyn) and Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947). McEldowney also agreed that Renoir should have last word on the editing of the film. It was Renoir’s first colour film, and reunited him with his cameraman nephew, Claude Renoir Junior. This meditative account of childhood, shot on location in Bengal, suggests a new spiritual or religious (though pantheistic) dimension in Renoir’s work. Released in 1951, it was the first of several colour films of great beauty, with Renoir becoming one of the pioneers of the use of Technicolor in French feature production.

The second of these was The Golden Coach, shot in 1952 in Italy, and released in France in 1953 as Le Carrosse d’or. Renoir, however, preferred the undubbed English-language version, with the actors’ own voices. This, arguably the greatest and most complex of films about the theatre, pushes the notion of the back-stage musical way beyond the boundaries of the genre. Its stylistic discontinuities offer a special and unusual beauty, and it was an important influence on Jean-Luc Godard, who, correctly linking it to Pirandello and Six Characters in Search of an Author, expressed his admiration for its interweaving of public display and private feelings, the theatre and real life. (27) The resolution of this exercise in artifice confirmed Renoir’s new, albeit highly personal and unconventional, engagement with religious ideas, as did at least one of the films he made after his return to work in France: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1959), a hymn to Pan, and a warning against the worship of technology. During this decade, he further explored Pirandellian themes of theatre and identity in two stage plays. Orvet was written for Leslie Caron after he had failed to persuade the producers to cast her in French Cancan (1955), a second, and to some extent more conventional, back-stage musical. This once again made spectacular use of colour, and reunited Renoir with his ’30s star Jean Gabin. Aspects of the character written for Caron anticipate Nénette (Catherine Rouvel) in Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. A second play, Carola et les cabotins, links Renoir’s interest in an exploration of the interaction between theatre and life with themes from war-time: occupation, collaboration and resistance.

Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (a 1959 adaptation of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) showed Renoir still willing to experiment, this time by reverting to black and white, and to multiple-camera techniques, which had been widely revived for the shooting of live television drama.

In Le Caporal épinglé (1962) Renoir revisited the world of the prison camps and the themes of La Grande illusion, though this time his characters were conscripts and other ranks, not officers. It ends with a tolerant but explicit rejection of inaction. His two successful escapers reveal, once they have succeeded in reaching Paris, that each has plans to join the resistance.

Renoir remained active through the 1960s, with a highly acclaimed biography of his father and an equally effective novel The Notebooks of Captain Georges. He also made a short and highly revealing film, La Direction d’acteur par Jean Renoir (1968), in which he demonstrates his methods of working with actors by guiding Gisèle Braunberger through the rehearsal of a speech he had adapted from a book by Rumer Godden. Nevertheless, it took him around eight years to set up his final feature, Le Petit théâre de Jean Renoir (1969). I was disappointed when I saw it, in a season at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in the summer of 1970. I had read his plans for C’est la revolution, and hoped that the spirit of that unrealized project would animate this new film. However Nick Ray, who came to the screening with us, was charmed by it, describing it as “An old man’s film.” Now it is one of the films I most wish to see again. Two others are Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe and Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier.

Though Renoir’s health was deteriorating, he dictated his memoirs, which were published in 1974, followed by three more novels. Early the next year, he made his final trip to Europe, to attend the most complete retrospective of his films yet mounted, at the National Film Theatre, London. A few weeks later, however, he was only able to watch from home, on television, as Ingrid Bergman accepted an Academy Award (Oscar) for Lifetime Achievement on his behalf.

Renoir was also honoured by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which made him a Fellow, and by the French government, who created him a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour). A few days after his death, an obituary appeared in the Los Angeles Times under the heading: “The Greatest of All Directors.” It was written by one of his greatest admirers: Orson Welles.

EPILOGUE: Story into Film.
Une Partie de campagne

Une Partie de campagne

Rodolphe stretches out as if from the audience and to articulate its desires, and opens the shutters, revealing the deep space and connection of interior with exterior so important to Renoir. His action brings together the two groups of characters, thus allowing narrative development. The image juxtaposes two ostensibly different kinds of cinema: popular cinema—structured to fulfill the audience’s desire for visual pleasure, the satisfactions of narrative, identification and emotional gratification; and “art” cinema—structured for an audience desiring “serious” themes and the revelation of carefully constructed characters and their motivations from details of their dialogue and behaviour. Renoir’s art is unusual in that it energetically combines both kinds of discourse. Henri is still in the space of the art film. It needs close, analytical observation to notice his rejection of the ritual of mixing a pastis, and to read this action as indulgent and self-absorbed. (28) Ultimately, and despite his earlier rejection of the adventure Rodolphe has proposed, Henri will take his place in the film’s entertainment discourse, whilst in an instant Henriette (centre, on the swing) will become the source of visual and kinetic pleasure for both spectators and characters.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Balançoire (The Swing, 1876) is usually suggested as the model for this passage, but for several reasons a different swing, from over a century earlier, seems far closer. This is the painting by Fragonard also known as Hasards heureux de l’escarpolette (Some Happy Accidents of the Swing, 1767).

The Swing Some Happy Accidents of the Swing

The later painting projects an image of calm and tranquility, the earlier an energy and exuberance closer to that in Renoir’s film. Moreover its title suggests a theme the film develops in detail, but which is only hinted at in the short story on which the film is based, and absent entirely from the painting by Renoir’s father. This is voyeurism. For de Maupassant, the draughts from Henriette’s skirts seem more intoxicating than the sight of “her pretty legs up to her knees” ((29); the passage seems an early acknowledgement of the potency of pheromones!). It was precisely to demonstrate his ownership of what only he should see, and the swing would reveal, that led to the Baron de Saint-Julien commissioning the Fragonard. It is recorded that he described his idea to the first artist he hoped to employ to realise it in these terms: “I should like to have you paint Madame (pointing to his mistress) on a swing that a bishop would set going. You will place me in such a way that I would be able to see the legs of this lovely young girl…” (30)

Une Partie de campagne Une Partie de campagne

The film sequence returns to Rodolphe and Henri for a time, allowing a discussion of casual sex and emotional responsibilities. This re-empasizes their status as men of the world, and reveals Henri’s patronising acceptance of women as sex objects. Of a dumb ex-mistress he says: “What I wanted from her had nothing to do with intelligence!” For Rodolphe, the revelations furnished by the swing are likely to become much more interesting if Henriette sits down, which she does. The cutting rate is about twice as fast as in the rest of the film, perhaps because the sequence moves frequently from one group of characters to another. There are no shots which offer an objective point of view, but several seem to present the subjective or imaginary point of view of one or other of the protagonists.

Renoir introduces Henri and Rodolphe much earlier than de Maupassant, after a couple of minutes, in Shot 6, where they are watching and commenting on the newcomers, the Dufour family, just after they’ve arrived. This inaugurates the movement between groups of characters so important in the film’s narrative organisation. They talk with contempt about such lower class day-trippers, an inscription in the fiction of the politics of 1936: the film was shot in July, just after the newly elected Popular Front government and the employers had negotiated the Matignon agreement, which provided for wage increases, trade union rights, a 40-hour week, paid holidays for workers, and improved social services. Nimbyism was in the air.

Une Partie de campagne Une Partie de campagne

In the story, Henri and Rodolphe have no role in the swing sequence. Nor does the group of seminarians. Through the latter Renoir inscribes in his text two distinct echoes from elsewhere, whose meanings range wider than, perhaps, he was consciously aware. First there’s the suggestion of clerical hypocrisy, echoing Fragonard’s bishop, pushing the swing in answer to Saint-Julien’s whim. Second, there’s a motif from actress Sylvia Bataille’s personal life: the seminarians appear after her fictional father and fiancé, her “privileged males”, have wandered off (as they do also in de Maupassant). At the right of the front row of the seminarians is Sylvia’s husband, erotic avant garde novelist Georges Bataille; next to him (centre) is an international master of the photographic gaze, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who has commented thus on the sequence: “Jean always wanted his assistants to feel what it was like on the other side of the camera, and I was given the role of a seminarist… I walked along with Georges Bataille, the husband… of Sylvia…, and as she was on the swing I had to look with amazement at her petticoats!” (31) The Batailles were already partially estranged; when the marriage finally broke down, Sylvia Bataille married psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

In de Maupassant, Henri and Rodolphe first appear as lunch is about to be served, sprawled in deck-chairs placed in the shade of the tree under which the Dufours plan to eat. Any discussions they may have had about the possibilities of an afternoon adventure, so important an aspect of the way in which Renoir transforms de Maupassant’s laconic narration into concrete actions and dialogue, are left to the imagination. The result of these transformations is to make Henri a far more manipulative and controlling character than in the story, though his doleful, wistful countenance and mournful objections to the adventure before he’s noticed how charming Henriette is, have seduced many viewers into regarding him as a victim of fate.

Une Partie de campagne

In both story and film, he refers (with a touch of amusement) to the secluded spot on the river bank where he and Henriette end by making love, as his “cabinet particulier.” Subtitles translate this as “study”, whilst a fairly recent translation of de Maupassant renders it “private hideaway.” (32) However the term in fact suggests something considerably more sordid. A cabinet particulier was a private dining room in a restaurant, and these were notorious as locations for sexual encounters. In Flaubert’s L’Education sentimentale Madame Arnoux “took offence at being treated like a woman of easy virtue” when her husband wants to dine in one alone with her, ” when in fact, coming from Arnoux, such treatment was a proof of affection.” (33) In Zola’s La Curée, the guilty passion of Renée Saccard and her stepson Maxime is consummated in one, the same room that, the previous Wednesday, Maxime had entertained a woman he’d picked up on the boulevards. Renoir’s Les Bas fonds, shot later in 1936, has a scene in which Pepel the thief (Jean Gabin) rescues Natacha (Junie Astor) from the clutches of the inspector (Gabriello). The tragedy of Une Partie de campagne is that, though in both story and film Henri feels momentary pangs of regret over the affair, he treats Henriette as he would any casual pick-up, and her grace, innocence, energy and spontaneity are sacrificed to the prejudices and conventions of a patriarchal, class society. When I fell in love with the film nearly 40 years ago (I was taking a language course in France in the hope of being able to read Cahiers du cinéma more easily, and thus was watching an unsubtitled print), these emotions and meanings were communicated clearly and directly without need of explanatory commentary (though a term like “patriarchal” was yet to enter our discourse). Now, in our ostensibly more democratic society, the past, of the 1880s, when the film was set, or the 1930s, when it was shot, has, indeed, become “a foreign country.” (34)

Fragonard’s painting is currently once again the object of artistic attention. When Renoir made use of it he may have been drawing on material beyond his conscious awareness (though his father had been an admirer of Fragonard’s work). However the prize-winning choreographer Susan Stroman clearly set out to liberate Saint-Julien’s young mistress from his ownership, and his controlling gaze, when she made the painting the basis of the first segment of the dance musical Contact, a major box-office success originally in New York and now in London. She has replaced the elderly lackey, or bishop (or both: the Baron held a hereditary position of authority in relation to the French clergy!), guiding the swing by a lusty young servant who, when the Baron swans off for some more champagne, delights the mistress by initiating her into the erotic potential of the swing.

French Cancan

For many critics the extraordinary energy of the dance which is the climax of Renoir’s French Cancan represents a comparable liberation from male control. Ray Durgnat makes the point with passion and enthusiasm: “Renoir makes sense of the cancan and its social significance. The dancers unleash the insolence not only of proletarian energy, but of the aggressive female, and storm the 19th-century bourgeois male patriarchy like the light brigade of sexual suffragettes which they are. As they sport the sweet dynamism of thighs long smothered under petticoats and startle the exhilarated male in a massed scissors-splits which is, of course, a kinaesthetic equivalent of crutch photography, the suggestion is that the erstwhile weaker sex won’t henceforth find the erstwhile lord of creation too hard a nut to crack. A river of feminine energy flows devastatingly, but not destructively, through society.” (35)

the final cancan sequence… It’s extraordinary: it wraps up the whole story, but has practically no dialogue; it keeps cutting backstage and to the audience. There’s no sequence I can think of that has such joie de vivre.

—Peter Bogdanovich (36)

Colour, music and the pride of life take the screen by storm, and the vitality of it all leaves the audience… as exhausted as if they had themselves been taking part.

The Times (London) (37)

By the time the can-can dancers mount their final invasion of decor and decorum both, French Cancan erupts as the most joyous hymn to the glory of art in the history of the cinema.

—Andrew Sarris (38)

Such words describe how the sequence works for me. But are we all, as contemporary students have often suggested, just using notions of art and its liberating energies to disguise the fact that this spectacle, through the very nature of its content, reasserts the power of the voyeuristic gaze of the male audience? Yet, if that is so, why do so many female viewers find the sequence equally liberating?

French Cancan

Postscript 2006

There was a major Renoir retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London early this year. Whilst the publicity exhorted us to “Fall in Love with the Films of Jean Renoir”, there was nowhere a hint that to do so would be to engage with the work of one of the greatest artists of the 20th. century. It felt as if, in British film culture, love of art is now the love that dare not speak its name! Moreover, the retrospective received no coverage from arts programmes on B.B.C. radio, although they found plenty of time to interview the likes of Woody Allen at length! Imagine a major exhibition of the paintings of Renoir’s father being greeted with similar indifference! Mercifully, at least no one referred to Renoir’s masterpieces as “cult films”, that patronising description that acts as the discursive gatekeeper allowing our intellectuals to avoid engagement with the beauties and complexities of cinematic art.

Jean Renoir (right) and cameraman Curt Courant shooting La Bête humaine. They are in the fragment of the set of the Roubauds' apartment which Lourié had built overlooking the marshalling yards at Le Havre


Directed by Renoir:

La Fille de l’eau (1924) France
Production Company: Films Jean Renoir/Maurice Touzé/Studio Films
Distribution: Maurice Rouhier, later Pierre Braunberger
Screenplay: Pierre Lestringuez and Jean Renoir
Photography: Jean Bachelet, Alphonse Gibory
Production Design: Jean Renoir
Cast: Catherine Hessling (Virginia), Pierre Lestringuez dit Philippe (Uncle Jeff), Pierre Champagne (Justin Crépoix), Harold Lewingston (Georges Raynal), Maurice Touzé (Ferret), Pierre Renoir (peasant with pitchfork)

Nana (1926) France/Germany
Production Company: Films Jean Renoir
Distribution: Aubert-Pierre Braunberger
Screenplay: Pierre Lestringuez from the novel by Emile Zola
Intertitles: Denise Leblond-Zola, Jean Renoir
Assistant Director: André Cerf
Photography: Edmund Corwin, Jean Bachelet
Production Design: Claude Autant-Lara
Cast: Catherine Hessling (Nana), Werner Krauss (Count Muffat), Jean Angelo (Count de Vandeuvres), Valeska Gert (Zoé), Pierre Lestringuez dit Philippe (Bordenave), Pierre Champagne (La Faloise), Raymond Guérin-Catelain (Georges Hugon), Claude Autant-Lara dit Moore (Fauchery), André Cerf (‘Le Tigre’), Pierre Braunberger (spectator at the theatre)

Charleston (Sur un air de Charleston) (1927) France
Production Company: Films Jean Renoir
Distribution: Néo-Film (Pierre Braunberger)
Producer: Jean Renoir
Assistant Directors: André Cerf, Claude Heymann
Screenplay: Pierre Lestringuez, from an idea by André Cerf
Photography: Jean Bachelet
Cast: Catherine Hessling (The Dancer), Johnny Huggins (The Explorer), André Cerf (The Monkey), Pierre Braunberger, Jean Renoir, Pierre Lestringuez, André Cerf (Four Angels)

Marquitta (1927) France
Production Company: La Société des Artistes Réunis
Production Manager: M. Gargour
Distribution: Jean de Merly
Screenplay: Pierre Lestringuez and Jean Renoir
Photography: Jean Bachelet, Raymond Agnel
Production Design: Robert-Jules Garnier
Cast: Marie-Louise Iribe (Marquitta), Jean Angelo (Prince Vlasco), Henri Debain (Count Dimitrieff, the Chamberlain), Lucien Mancini (Step-Father), Pierre Lestringuez dit Philippe (Casino Owner), Pierre Champagne (Taxi Driver)

La Petite marchande d’allumettes (The Little Match Girl) (1928) France
Producers: Jean Renoir, Jean Tedesco
Distribution: Films SOFAR
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from stories by Hans Christian Andersen
Photography: Jean Bachelet
Production Design: Erik Aaes
Assistant Directors: Claude Heymann, Simone Hamiguet
Cast: Catherine Hessling (Karen), Jean Storm (Young Man/Wooden Soldier), Manuel Raaby (Policeman/Death), Aimée Tedesco dit Amy Wells (Mechanical Doll)
With synchronized music arranged by Manuel Rosenthal and Michael Grant.

Tire au flanc (1928) France
Production Company: Néo-Film
Producer: Pierre Braunberger
Distribution: Armor-Film, Editions Pierre Braunberger
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, André Cerf, Claude Heymann, from the play by André Mouézy-Eon, A. Sylvane
Intertitles: André Rigaud
Photography: Jean Bachelet
Production Design: Erik Aaes
Assistant Directors: André Cerf, Lola Markovitch
Cast: Georges Pomiès (Jean Dubois d’Ombelles), Michel Simon (Joseph), Fridette Faton (Georgette), Félix Oudart (Colonel Brochard), Jean Storm (Lieutenant Daumel), Manuel Rabinovitch dit Raaby (adjutant), Kinny Dorlay (Lily), Maryanne (Madame Blandin), Zellas (Muflot), Jeanne Helbing (Solange), Catherine Hessling (girl), André Cerf (soldier), Max Dalban (soldier)

Le Tournoi (Le Tournoi dans la cité) (1928)
Production Company: Société des Films Historiques
Producer: Henry Dupuy-Mazuel
Assistant Director: André Cerf
Distribution: Jean de Merly, Fernand Weil
Screenplay: Henry Dupuy-Mazuel, André Jaeger-Schmidt after the novel by Henry Dupuy-Mazuel
Photography: Marcel Lucien, Maurice Desfassiaux
Production Design: Robert Mallet-Stevens
Editor: André Cerf
Cast: Aldo Nadi (François de Baynes), Jackie Monnier (Isabelle Ginori), Enrique Rivero (Henri de Rogier), Blanche Bernis (Catherine de Médicis), Suzanne Desprès (Countess de Baynes), Manuel Rabinovitch dit Raaby (Count Ginori), Max Dalban (captain of the watch)

Le Bled (1929) France
Production Company: Société des Films Historiques
Producer: Henry Dupuy-Mazuel
Assistant Directors: André Cerf and René Arcy-Hennery
Distribution: Mappemonde Films
Screenplay: Henry Dupuy-Mazuel, André Jaeger-Schmidt
Intertitles: André Rigaud
Photography: Marcel Lucien, Léon Morizet
Production Design: William Aguet
Editor: Marguerite Houlé
Cast: Jackie Monnier (Claude Duvernet), Enrique Rivero (Pierre Hoffer), Diana Hart (Diane Duvernet), Manuel Rabinovitch dit Raaby (Manuel Duvernet), Alexandre Arquillière (Christian Hoffer), Jacques Becker (a Hoffer farmhand)

On purge bébé (1931) France
Production Company/Distribution: Braunberger-Richebé
Production Manager: Charles David
Assistant Directors: Claude Heymann, Pierre Schwab
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Pierre Prévert, from the play by Georges Feydeau
Photography: Théodore Sparkhul, Roger Hubert
Production Design: Gabriel Scognamillo
Music: Paul Misraki
Sound: D. F. Scanlon, Bugnon
Editor: Jean Mamy
Cast: Jacques Louvigny (Bastien Follavoine), Marguerite Pierry (Julie Follavoine), Sacha Tarride (Toto), Michel Simon (Chouilloux), Olga Valéry (Madame Chouilloux), Fernandel (Horace Truchet)

La Chienne (1931) France
Production Company: Braunberger-Richebé
Distribution: Braunberger-Richebé, Europa-Films (C.S.C.)
Production Manager: Charles David
Assistant Directors: Pierre Prévert, Claude Heymann, Pierre Schwab
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, André Girard, from the novel by Georges de la Fouchardière and the play adapted from it by André Mouézy-Eon
Photography: Théodore Sparkhul
Continuity: Suzanne de Troye
Production Design: Gabriel Scognamillo
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne, Marcel Courme
Songs: Eugénie Buffet (“La Sérénade du pavé”), Toselli (“Sérénade”), “Malbruk s’en va-t’en guerre”
Editors: Denise Batcheff, Paul Féjos; then Marguerite Houlé dit Renoir, Jean Renoir
Cast: Michel Simon (Maurice Legrand), Janie Marèze (Lulu), Georges Flammand (Dédé), Magdeleine Berubet (Adèle Legrand), Gaillard (Alexis Godard), Jean Gehret (M. Dagodet), Alexandre Rignault (Langelard, the Art Critic), Lucien Mancini (Walstein, the Art Dealer), Max Dalban (Bonnard), Marcel Courme (Colonel), Sylvain Itkine (lawyer), Jane Pierson (concierge)

La Nuit du carrefour

(Night at the Crossroads) (1932) France
Production Company: Europa Films
Distribution: Comptoir Française Cinémathèque
Production Manager: Gaillard
Assistant Directors: Jacques Becker, Maurice Blondeau
Screenplay: Jean Renoir and Georges Simenon, from the latter’s novel
Photography: Marcel Lucien, Georges Asselin, assistants Paul Fabian, Claude Renoir Jr.
Production Design: William Aguet, assistant Jean Castanier
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne, Bugnon
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, assisted by Suzanne de Troyes, with the participation of Walter Ruttmann
Cast: Pierre Renoir (Inspector Maigret), Georges Térof (Lucas), Winna Winfried (Else Andersen), Georges Koudria (Carl Andersen), Jean Gehret (Emile Michonnet), Jane Pierson (Madame Michonnet), Michel Duran (Jojo), Jean Mitry (Arsène), Max Dalban (doctor), Gaillard (the butcher), Manuel Rabinovitch dit Raaby (Guido)

Boudu sauvé des eaux (Boudu Saved from Drowning) (1932) France
Production Company: Société Sirius
Distribution: Etablissements Jacques Haik
Producers: Michel Simon, Jean Gehret, Marc le Pelletier
Assistant Directors: Jacques Becker, Georges Darnoux
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Albert Valentin from the play by René Fauchois
Photography: Marcel Lucien, assistants Jean-Paul Alphen, Asselin
Production Design: Jean Castanier, Hugues Laurent
Sound: Igor B. Kalinowski
Music: Raphael, Johann Strauss
Song: “Sur les bords de la Rivièra”
Flautist: Jean Boulze
Orpheon: Edouard Dumoulin
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, assistant Suzanne de Troye
Continuity: Suzanne de Troye
Cast: Michel Simon (Boudu), Charles Granval (Edouard Lestingois), Marcelle Hainia (Madame Lestingois), Séverine Lerczinska (Anne-Marie), Max Dalban (Gadin), Jean Gehret (Vigour), Jean Dasté (Student), Jacques Becker (poet in park), Jane Pierson (Rose), Georges Darnoux (oarsman)

Chotard et Cie (Chotard & Co.) (1933) France
Production Company: Société des Films Roger Ferdinand
Producer: Roger Ferdinand
Assistant Director: Jacques Becker
Distribution: Universal
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from the play by Roger Ferdinand
Photography: Joseph-Louis Mundwiller, assistants Claude Renoir Jr., René Ribault
Production Design: Jean Castanier
Sound: Igor B. Kalinowski
Continuity: Suzanne de Troye
Editors: Marguerite Renoir, Suzanne de Troye
Cast: Fernand Charpin (Français Chotard), Jeanne Lory (Madame Chotard), Georges Pomiès (Julien Collinet), Jeanne Boitel (Reine Chotard Collinet), Max Dalban (Emile)

Madame Bovary (1933) France
Production Company: La Nouvelle Société de Film
Producer: Gaston Gallimard, Robert Aron
Distribution: Compagnie Independente de Distribution
Production Manager: René Jaspard
Assistant Directors: Pierre Desouches, Jacques Becker
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from the novel by Gustave Flaubert
Photography: Jean Bachelet, assistants Alphonse Gibory, Claude Renoir Jr.
Production Design: Robert Gys, Eugène Lourié, Georges Wakhevitch
Sound: Marcel Courme, Joseph de Bretagne
Music: Darius Milhaud.(“Le Printemps dans la plaine”), Donizetti (“Lucia de Lammermoor”)
Editor: Marguerite Renoir
Cast: Valentine Tessier (Emma Bovary), Pierre Renoir (Charles Bovary), Alice Tissot (Old Madame Bovary), Max Dearly (M. Homais), Daniel Lecourtois (Léon Dupuis), Fernand Fabre (Rudolphe Boulanger), Pierre Laquey (Hippolyte Tautin), Robert le Vigan (Lheureux), Romain Bouquet, (Maître Guillaumin), André Fouche (Justin)

Toni (1934) France
Production Company: Films d’Aujourd’hui
Distribution: Films Marcel Pagnol
Production Manager: Pierre Gaut
Assistant Directors: Georges Darnoux, Antonio Canor
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Carl Einstein, from a true story found by Jacques Mortier
Photography: Claude Renoir Jr.
Production Design: Marius Braquier, Léon Bourrely
Sound: Barbishanian
Music: Paul Bozzi, Joseph Kosma
Editors: Marguerite Renoir, Suzanne de Troye
Cast: Charles Blavette (Toni), Jenny Hélia (Marie), Celia Montalvan (Josefa), Max Dalban (Albert), Edouard Delmont (Fernand), Andrex (Gabi), André Kovachevitch (Sebastien), Paul Bozzi (Jacques, the guitarist)

Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (1936) France
Production Company: Obéron
Distribution: Minerva
Producer: André Halley des Fontaines
Production Manager: Geneviève Blondeau
Assistant Directors: Georges Darnoux, Jean Castanier
Screenplay: Jacques Prévert, Jean Renoir, from a story by Jean Castanier
Photography: Jean Bachelet
Production Design: Jean Castanier, Robent Gys
Sound: Guy Moreau, Louis Bogé, Roger Loisel, Robert Teisseire
Music: Jean Wiener
Song “Au jour le jour, à la nuit la nuit”: Joseph Kosma
Orchestra: Roger Desormière
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, Marthe Huguet
Continuity: Marguerite Renoir
Cast: Jules Berry (Batala), René Lefèvre (Amédée Lange), Florelle (Valentine), Nadia Sibirskaïa (Estelle), Sylvia Bataille (Edith), Marcel Levesque (le concierge), Maurice Baquet (Charles), Jacques Brunius (Baigneur), Henri Guisol (Meunier fils), Marcel Duhamel (Louis), Paul Grimault (Typesetter), Jean Dasté (Illustrator), Sylvain Itkine (Inspector Juliani), Odette Talazac (la concierge)

La Vie est à nous (Life Belongs to Us/ People of France) (1936) France
Production Company: Parti Communiste Français
Distribution: 1936 (non-commercial: the film had not been passed by the censorship, and screenings were not open to the public) Ciné-Liberté; from 1969 Cinémas Associés, prints owned by L ‘Avant-Scène du Cinéma.
Directors: Jean Renoir, Jacques Becker, André Zwoboda, Jean-Paul le Chanois, dit Dreyfus, Jacques Brunius, André Swoboda, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Pierre Unik, Maurice Lime
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Jean-Paul Dreyfus, Pierre Unik; (the content of one scene suggests that Ilya Ehrenburg, the Izvetsia correspondent in Paris throughout the 1930s, may have had an input)
Photography: Louis Page, Jean-Serge Bourgoin, Jean Isnard, Alain Douarinou, Claude Renoir Jr., Nicholas Hayer (and, according to various sources, Marcel Carné and Henri Cartier-Bresson)
Music: “Internationale”, “Song of the Komsomols” by Shostakovitch, “Auprès de ma blonde”, “La Cucaracha” sung by Chorale Populaire de Paris, directed by Suzanna Conte
Sound: Robert Teisseire
Editor: Marguerite Renoir
Cast: Jean Dasté (teacher), Jacques Brunius (President of the Administrative Council), Pierre Unik (Marcel Cachin’ s secretary), Julien Bertheau (René, a young worker), Nadia Sibirskaia (Ninette), Emile Drain (Gustave), Gaston Modot (Philippe), Charles Blavette (Tonin), Max Dalban (Foreman), Madeleine Solange (factory worker), Jacques Becker (unemployed worker), Jean Renoir, Sylvain Itkine, Jean-Paul Dreyfus, Léon Larive, Roger Blin, Vladimir Sokoloff, and (as themselves) Marcel Cachin, André Marty, Maurice Thorez, Jacques Duclos, Paul Vaillant-Couturier. Stock footage of Léon Blum, Colonel de la Roque, Adolf Hitler, et al.

Une Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) (1936; final cut 1946) France
Production Company: Films du Panthéon
Distribution: Films de la Pléiade
Producer: Pierre Braunberger
Production Manager: Roger Woog
Production Administrator: Jacques Brunius
Assistant Directors: Jacques Becker, Henri Cartier-Bresson dit Cartier (some sources also list Yves Allégret, Claude Heymann and Jacques Brunius)
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from the story by Guy de Maupassant
Photography: Claude Renoir Jr., Bourgoin
Stills: Eli Lotar
Production Design: Robert Gys
Sound: Marcel Courme, Joseph de Bretagne
Music: Joseph Kosma, song sung by Germaine Montero
Orchestra: Roger Desormière
Assistant Director: Jacques Becker
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, Marinette Cadix
Cast: Sylvia Bataille (Henriette Dufour), Georges Darnoux dit Saint-Saëns (Henri), Gabriello (M. Dufour), Jane Marken (Madame Dufour), Paul Temps (Anatole), Jacques Brunius dit Borel (Rodolphe), Jean Renoir (Père Poulain), Marguerite Renoir (Servant), Gabrielle Fontan (Grandmother), Pierre Lestringuez (priest), Henri Cartier-Bresson and Georges Bataille (seminarians), Alain Renoir (boy fishing)

Les Bas-fonds (The Lower Depths) (1936) France
Production Company: Albatross (Alexandre Kamenka)
Distribution: Les Distributeurs Français, S.A.
Production Manager: Vladimin Zederbaum
Assistant Directors: Jacques Becker, Joseph Soiffer
Screenplay: Eugene Zamiatine, Jacques Companéez, from the play by Maxim Gorky
Adapted by Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak
Photography: Jean Bachelet, Fedote Bourgassof
Production Design: Eugène Lourié, Hugues Laurent
Sound: Robert Ivonnet
Music: Jean Wiener, Charles Desormière
Song: lyrics Charles Spaak, voice Irène Joachim
Editor: Marguerite Renoir
Cast: Louis Jouvet (Baron), Jean Gabin (Pepel), Suzy Prim (Vassilissa), Vladimir Sokoloff (Kostileff), Junie Astor (Natacha), Robert le Vigan (Actor), Gabriello (Inspector), René Genin (Luka), Jany Holt (Nastya), Maurice Baquet (Aliocha), Léon Larive (Félix), Paul Temps, Sylvain Itkine, Jacques Becker

La Grande illusion (1937) France
Production Company: RAC (Frank Rollmer, Alexandre and Albert Pinkéwitch)
Distribution: Réalisation d’Art Cinématographique
Production Manager: Raymond Blondy
Assistant Director: Jacques Becker
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak
Technical Consultant: Carl Koch
Photography: Christian Matras, assistants: Claude Renoir Jr., Jean Bourgoin, Bourreaud
Stills: Sam Lévin
Production Design: Eugène Lourié
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne
Music: Joseph Kosma
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, assistant Marthe Huguet; 1958, restoration for re-release, Renée Lichtig
Cast: Jean Gabin (Lt. Maréchal), Pierre Fresnay (Captain de Boeldieu), Erich von Stroheim (Captain von Rauffenstein), Marcel Dalio (Rosenthal), Julien Carette (Traquet), Dita Parlo (Elsa), Gaston Modot (Engineer), Jean Dasté (Teacher), Sylvain Itkine (Demolder), Jacques Becker (English officer)

La Marseillaise (1938) France
Production Company: Conféderation General de Travail (confederation of trade unions), then Société de Production et d’Exploitation du Film La Marseillaise
Distribution: RAC, World Pictures
Production Managers: André Zwoboda, A. Seigneur
Assistant Directors: Jacques Becker, Carl Koch, Claude Renoir Sr., Jean-Paul Dreyfus, Louis Demazure, Marc Maurette, Tony Corteggiani
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Carl Koch, M. and Mme. N. Martel Dreyfus
Photography: Jean-Serge Bourgoin, Alain Douarinou, Jean-Marie Maillols, assistants Jean-Paul Alphen, Jean Louis
Stills: Sam Lévin
Production Design: Léon Barsacq, Georges Wakhevitch, Jean Périer
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, assistant Marthe Huguet
Shadow Theatre: Lotte Reiniger
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne, Jean-Roger Bertrand, J. Demede
Music: Lalande, Rameau, Grétny, Mozart, J.S. Bach, Joseph Kosma, Rouget de l’Isle, Sauveplane
Orchestra: Roger Desormière
Cast: Pierre Renoir (Louis XVI), Lisa Delamere (Marie Antoinette), Louis Jouvet (Roederer), William Aguet ((La Rochefoucauld), Georges Spanelly (La Chesnaye), Andrex (Honoré Arnaud), Ardisson (Bomier), Nadia Sibirskaïa (Louison), Jenny Hélia (orator in the Assembly), Léon Larive (Picard), Gaston Modot and Julien Carette (volunteer soldiers), Marthe Marty (Bomier’ s mother)

La Bête humaine (The Human Beast, but better The Beast in Man) (1938) France
Production Company/Distribution: Paris Film Production (Robert and Raymond Hakim)
Production Manager: Roland Tual
Assistant Directors: Claude Renoir Sr., Suzanne de Troye
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from the novel by Emile Zola
Dialogue: Jean Renoir, Denise Leblond-Zola
Photography: Curt Courant, Claude Renoir Jr
Stills: Sam Lévin
Production Design: Eugène Lourié
Sound: Robert Tesseire
Music: Joseph Kosma
Continuity: Suzanne de Troye
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, railway sequences Suzanne de Troye
Cast: Jean Gabin (Jacques Lantier), Simone Simon (Séverine Roubaud), Fernand Ledoux (Roubaud), Julien Carette (Pecqueux), Jenny Hélia (Pecqueux’s girlfriend), Colette Régis (Madame Victoire), Jacques Berlioz (Grandmorin), Jean Renoir (Cabuche), Balanchette Brunoy (Flore)

La Règle du jeu: The ambiguous image: we know that Robert and Genevieve are parting, but Christine (watching through a spy-glass) does not

La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939; restored 1959) France
Production Company/Distribution: Nouvelle Edition Française
Production Administrator: Camille François
Production Manager: Claude Renoir Sr
Assistant Directors: André Zwobada, Henri Cartier-Bresson
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Carl Koch, André Zwobada
Photography: Jean Bachelet, assistants: Jean-Paul Alphen, Alain Renoir
Technical Advisor: Tony Corteggiani
Continuity: Dido Freire
Stills: Sam Lévin
Production Design: Eugène Lourié, Max Douy
Costumes: Coco Chanel
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne
Music (arranged by Roger Désormière and Joseph Kosma): Mozart, Monsigny, Saint-Saëns, Johann Strauss, Chopin, Sallabert, Vincent Scotto
Orchestra: Roger Desormière
Editor: Marguerite Renoir, assistant Marthe Huguet
Cast: Marcel Dalio (Robert de la Chesnaye), Nora Grégor (Christine), Roland Toutain (André Jurieu), Jean Renoir (Octave), Paulette Dubost (Lisette), Mila Parély (Geneviève), Julien Carette (Marceau), Gaston Modot (Edouard Schumacher), Odette Talazac (Charlotte de la Plante), Pierre Magnier (the General), Pierre Nay (Saint-Aubin), Richard Francoeur (M. la Bruyère), Claire Gérard (Mme. la Bruyère), Eddy Debray (Corneille, the butler), Léon Larive (Chef), Anne Mayen (Jackie), Lise Elina (Radio Reporter), André Zwoboda (Caudron engineer), Henri Cartier-Bresson (English servant), Tony Corteggiani (Berthelin), Jenny Hélia (servant), Camille François (voice of radio announcer)

Swamp Water (1941) U.S.A.
Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox
Producer and dialogue director: Irving Pichel
Screenplay: Dudley Nichols, from the story by Vereen Bell
Photography: Peverell Marley, Lucien Ballard
Production Design: Thomas Little, Richard Day
Music: David Buttolph
Editor: Walter Thompson
Cast: Dana Andrews (Ben Ragan), Walter Huston (Thursday Ragan), Walter Brennan (Tom Keefer), Anne Baxter (Julie), John Carradine (Jesse Wick), Mary Howard (Hannah), Ward Bond (Jim Donson), Guinn Williams (Bud Donson), Virginia Gilmore (Mabel), Eugene Pallette (Sheriff), Russell Simpson (Marty McCord)

This Land is Mine (1943) U.S.A.
Production Company/Distribution: R.K.O.
Producers/Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Dudley Nichols
Photography: Frank Redman
Production Design: Eugène Lourié, Albert d’Agostino, Walter F. Keeler
Sound: Terry Kellum, James Stewart
Music: Lothar Perl
Editor: Frederic Knudtson
Cast: Charles Laughton (Albert Lory), Maureen O’Hara (Louise Martin), Kent Smith (Paul Martin), George Sanders (George Lambert), Walter Slezak (Major von Keller), Una O’Connor (Mrs. Lory), Nancy Gates (Julie Grant), George Coulouris (prosecutor)

Salute to France (1944) U.S.A.
Production Company: Office of War Information
Project Officer: Burgess Meredith
Distribution: United Artists
Screenplay: Philip Dunne, Jean Renoir, Burgess Meredith
Photography: George Webber (Army Pictorial Service)
Music: Kurt Weill
Supervising Editor: Helen van Dongen
Editors: Marcel Cohen, Maria Reyto, Jean Oser
Technical Advisor: Office of Strategic Services
Cast: Burgess Meredith (Tommy), Garson Kanin (Joe and Commentary Voice), Claude Dauphin (Narrator and French soldier)

The Southerner (1945) U.S.A.
Production Company: Producing Artists Inc.
Distribution: United Artists
Producers: Robert Hakim, David L. Loew
Assistant Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Hugo Butler, from the novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand by George Sessions Perry
Photography: Lucien Andriot
Production Design: Eugène Lourié
Sound: Frank Webster
Music: Werner Janssen
Editor: Gregg Tallas
Cast: Zachary Scott (Sam Tucker), Betty Field (Nora Tucker), Beulah Bondi (Grandma), J. Carrol Naish (Devers), Percy Kilbride (Harmie Jenkins), Norman Lloyd (Finlay), Charles Kemper (Tim)

The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) U.S.A.
Production Company: Camden productions Inc.
Producers: Benedict Bogeaus, Burgess Meredith
Distribution: United Artists
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Burgess Meredith, from the play by André Heuzé, André de Lorde and Thielly Norès, based on the novel by Octave Mirbeau
Photography: Lucien Andriot
Production Design: Eugène Lourié
Costumes: Barbara Karinska
Music: Michel Michelet
Editor: James Smith
Cast: Paulette Goddard (Célestine), Burgess Meredith (Captain Mauger), Hurd Hatfield (Georges Lanlaire), Reginald Owen (M. Lanlaire), Judith Anderson (Mme. Lanlaire), Francis Lederer (Joseph), Florence Bates (Rose)

The Woman on the Beach (1947) U.S.A.
Production Company/Distribution: R.K.O.
Producer: Jack J. Gross
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Frank Davis, J. R. Michael Hogan, from the novel None So Blind by Mitchell Wilson
Photography: Harry Wild, Leo Trover
Production Design: Albert d’Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Sound: Jean L. Speak, Clem Portman
Music: Hanns Eisler
Editors: Roland Gross, Lyle Boyer
Cast: Joan Bennett (Peggy Butler), Robert Ryan (Scott Burnett), Charles Bickford (Tod Butler), Nan Leslie (Eve), Walter Sande (Vernecke)

The River: Lourié built this platform on the river bank, away from the main set of the house, to allow the final shot to be done without any cuts

The River (1951) U.S.A.
Production Company: Oriental International Film Inc. Theater Guild
Producers: Kenneth McEldowney, Jean Renoir
Production Manager: Kalyan Gupta
Distribution: United Artists
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Rumer Godden, from the latter’s novel
Photography (Technicolor): Claude Renoir Jr., operator Ramananda Sen Gupta
Production Design: Eugène Lourié, Bansi Chandra Gupta
Sound: Charles Paulton, Charles Knott
Music: classical Indian, Schumann, Mozart, Weber (“Invitation to the Dance”)
Musical Director: M. A. Partha Sarathy
Editor: George Gale
Cast: Nora Swinburne (Mother), Esmond Knight (Father), Arthur Shields (Mr. John), Thomas E. Breen (Captain John), Radha Sri Ram (Melanie), Adrienne Corri (Valerie), Patricia Walters (Harriet), Suprova Mukerjee (Nan), Richard Foster (Bogey), June Hillman (narrator)

The Golden Coach (Le Carrosse d’or, La Carrozzo d’Oro) (1953) France/Italy
Production Company: Panaria Films, Delphinus & Hoche Productions
Distribution: Corona
Producer: Francesco Alliata
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Renzo Avenzo, Giulio Macchi, Jack Kirkland, Ginette Doynel, from the play Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement by Prosper Merimée
Photography (Technicolor): Claude Renoir Jr.
Technicolor Consultant: Joan Bridge
Production Design: Mario Chiari
Costume design: Maria de Matteïs
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne, Ovidio del Grande
Music: Vivaldi, Corelli, Olivier Mettra
Editors: Mario Serandrei, David Hawkins
Cast: Anna Magnani (Camilla), Duncan Lamont (Viceroy), Odouardo Spadaro (Don Antonio), Riccando Rioli (Ramon), Paul Campbell (Felipe), Nadia Fiorelli (Isabelle), Dante (Harlequin), Ralph Truman (the Duke), Jean Debucourt (the Bishop), George Higgins (Martinez), Gisella Mathews (Marquisa Altamirano), Raf de la Torre (Chief Justice), Medini Brothers (child acrobats)
(All 35 mm. English-language prints I have seen have suffered three brief but significant trims; these are not found in 16mm English language or the dubbed 35mm French language prints).

French Cancan (1955) France
Production Company: Franco London Films, Jolly Films
Distribution: Gaumont
Producer: Louis Wipf
Assistant Directors: Serge Vallin, Pierre Kast, Jacques Rivette
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from an idea by André-Paul Antoine
Photography (Technicolor): Michel Kelber
Production Design: Max Douy
Costume Design: Rosine Delamare
Sound: Antoine Petitjean
Music: Georges van Parys
Songs: “Complainte de la Butte,” lyrics by Jean Renoir; airs from Caf’Conc’ of 1900, sung by Cora Vaucaire, Mario Juillard
Choreography: Georges Grandjean
Editor: Borys Lewin
Cast: Jean Gabin (Danglard), Maria Félix (La Belle Abbesse), Françoise Arnoul (Nini), Jean-Roger Caussimon (Baron Walter), Gianni Esposito (Prince Alexandre), Philippe Clay (Casimir), Michel Piccoli (Valorgueil), Jean Panédès (Coudrier), Lydia Johnson (Guibole), Max Dalban (Owner of La Reine Blanche), Jacques Jouanneau (Bidon), Valentine Tessier (Mme. Olympe), Franco Pastorino (Paulo), Pierre Olaf (Pierrot the whistler), Patachou (Yvette Guilbert), Edith Piaf (Eugénie Buffet), Gaston Modot (Danglard’s Servant), Lia Amenda (Esther Georges), Paquerette (Prunelle), Michel Piccoli (Valorgueil), Patachou (Yvette Guilbert)

Eléna et les hommes (1956) France
Production Company: Franco London Films, Les Films Gibé, Electra Compagnia Cinematografica
Distribution: Cinédis
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Jean Serge, Cy Howard
Photography (Eastmancolor): Claude Renoir Jr.
Production Design: Jean André
Costume Design: Rosine Delamare, Monique Plotin
Sound: William Sivel
Music: Joseph Kosma
Songs: “Méfiez-vous de Paris”, “O Nuit”
Singers: Léo Marjane, Juliette Greco
Arrangements: Georges van Parys
Editor: Borys Lewin
Cast: Ingrid Bergman (Princess Eléna Sorokovska), Jean Marais (General François Rollan), Mel Ferrer (Henri de Chevincount), Pierre Bertin (Martin-Michaud), Jean Richard (Hector), Magali Noel (Lolotte), Elina Labourdette (Paulette Escoffier), Juliette Greco (Miarka), Jean Castanier (Isnard), Gaston Modot (Gypsy chief), Léo Marjane (street singer)

Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (1959) made for television, and not distributed till 1961; France
Production Company: O.R.T.F., Sofirad, Compagnie Jean Renoir
Distribution: Consortium Pathé
Production Manager: Albert Hollebecke
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, from the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Photography: Georges Leclerc
Production Design: Marcel-Louis Dieulot
Sound: Joseph Richard
Music: Joseph Kosma
Editor: Renée Lichtig
Cast: Jean-Louis Barrault (Dr. Cordelier/Opale), Teddy Billis (Maître Joly), Michel Vitold (Dr. Lucien Séverin), Jean Topant (Désiré), Micheline Gary (Marguerite), André Ceres (Inspector Salbris), Jean Renoir (as himself, the narrator), Gaston Modot (Blaise, the gardener)

Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass, Picnic on the Grass) (1959) France
Production Company: Compagnie Jean Renoir
Distribution: Consortium Pathé
Production Manager: Ginette Doynel
Screenplay: Jean Renoir
Photography (Eastmancolor): Georges Leclerc
Production Design: Marcel-Louis Dieulot
Sound: Joseph de Bretagne
Music: Joseph Kosma
Editor: Renée Lichtig
Cast: Paul Meurisse (Professon Etienne Alexis), Catherine Rouvel (Nénette), Fernand Sardou (Nino), Ingrid Nordine (Marie-Charlotte), Charles Blavette (Gaspard), Jean Claudio (Rosseau)

Le Caporal épinglé (The Vanishing Corporal, The Elusive Corporal) (1962) France
Directors: Jean Renoir, Guy Lefranc
Production Company: Films du Cyclope
Distribution: Pathé
Production Manager: René G. Vuattoux
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Guy Lefranc, from the novel by Jacques Perret
Photography: Georges Leclerc
Production Design: Eugene Herrly
Sound: Antoine Petitjean
Music: Joseph Kosma
Editor: Renée Lichtig
Cast: Jean-Pierre Cassel (Corporal), Claude Brasseur (Pater), Claude Rich (Ballochet), Jean Carmet (Guillaume), Jacques Jouanneau (Penche-à-gauche), Cornelia Froebass (Erika), Mario David (Caruso), O.E. Hasse (Drunken Passenger), Guy Bedos (the Stutterer)

Le Petit théâtre de Jean Renoir (1969) France
Production Company: Son et Lumière, RAI, Bavaria, ORTF
Producer: Pierre Long
Production Manager: Robert Paillardon
Screenplay: Jean Renoir
Production Design: Gilbert Margerie
Photography (colour): Georges Leclerc, assistants Antoine Georgiakis, Georges Liron
Sound: Guy Rolphe
Music: Jean Wiener (Le Dernier réveillon, Le Roi d’Yvetot), Joseph Kosma (La Cireuse électrique)
Song: “Quand l’amour meurt” by Octave Crémieux
Editor: Geneviève Winding
Cast: Le Dernier réveillon: Nino Formicola and Milly-Monti (Tramps), Roland Bertin (Gontran), Robert Lombard (Maître d’); La Cireuse électrique: Marguerite Cassan (Emilie), Pierre Olaf (Gustave), Jacques Dynam (Jules), Jean-Louis Tristan (Salesman); Quand l’amour meurt: Jeanne Moreau (Singer); Le Roi d’Yvetot: Fernand Sardou (Duvallier), Françoise Arnoul (Isabelle), Jean Carmet (Feraud), Dominique Labourier (Paulette)


Films featuring Renoir or his work, or in which he had a major involvement:

Catherine (1924) France
Director: Albert Dieudonné
Production Company: Films Jean Renoir
Distribution: Pierre Braunberger (1927, re-edited and released under the title Une Vie sans joie)
Screenplay: Jean Renoir
Photography: Jean Bachelet, Alphonse Gibory
Cast: Catherine Hessling (Catherine Ferrand), Louis Gauthier (Georges Mallet), Maud Richard (Mme. Mallet, his wife), Eugénie Naud (Mme. Laisné, his sister), Albert Dieudonné (Maurice Laisné, his nephew), Pierre Lestringuez, dit Philippe (Adolphe), Pierre Champagne (the Mallets’ son), Jean Renoir (sub-prefect).

La P’tite Lili (1927) France
Director: Alberto Cavalcanti,
Production Company/Distribution: Néo—Film
Producer: Pierre Braunberger
Screenplay: Alberto Cavalcanti, from a song by Eugène Gavel and Louis Benech
Photography: Jimmy Rogers
Production Design: Erik Aaes
Music: Darius Milhaud (1930 version)
Editor: Marguerite Houlé
Cast: Catherine Hessling (La P’tite Lili), Jean Renoir (Pimp), Guy Ferrand (Singer), Roland Cailloux (Concierge), Jean Storm (Minister), Dido Freire (the Little Cousin), Alain Renoir (trespasser)

Le Petit chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood) (1929) France
Director: Alberto Cavalcanti,
Producer: Jean Renoir
Screenplay: Jean Renoir, Alberto Cavalcanti, from the story by Charles Perrault
Photography: Marcel Lucien, René Ribault; Camera Operator: Jimmy Rogers; Assistant: Eli Lotar
Editor: Marguerite Houlé
Assistant Directors: Pierre Prévert and André Cerf
Cast: Catherine Hessling (Little Red Riding Hood), Jean Renoir (the Wolf), André Cerf (Notary), Pierre Prévert (a little girl and other parts), Pablo Quevado (Young Man), Marcel la Montagne (Farmer), Odette Talazac (Farmer’s Wife), William Aguet (old Englishwoman), Aimée Tedesco dit Amy Wells (newspaper seller)

Die Jagd nach dem Gluck (1930) Germany
Directors: Rochus Gliese, Carl Koch,
Production Company: Comenius Film GmbH
Distribution: Deutscher Wenkfilm GmbH
Screenplay: Lotte Reiniger, Carl Koch, Rochus Glieser from an idea by Lotte Reiniger and Alex Strasser
Photography: Fritz Arno Wagner
Sets: Rochus Gliese, Arno Richter
Shadow Theatre Effects: Lotte Reiniger, assisted by Carl Koch and Berthold Bartosch
Music: Théo Mackeben
Editor: Marguerite Houlé
Cast: Cathenine Hessling (Aimée), Jean Renoir (Robert, a businessman), Alexander Murski (Marquand, a pedlar), Berthold Bartosch (Mario), Aimée Tedesco dit Amy Wells (Jeanne)
(This seems to be a lost film).

The Spanish Earth (1937) U.S.A.
Director: Joris Ivens
Production Company: Contemporary Historians, Inc.
Distribution (U.S.A.): Prometheus Pictures; France: Ciné-Liberté
Script: Joris Ivens
Photography: John Ferno (Fernhout), Joris Ivens
Editor: Helen van Dongen
Music: Marc Blitzstein, Virgil Thompson, after Spanish folk music
Sound: Irving Reis
Commentary: written and spoken by Ernest Hemingway. Renoir wrote and spoke the commentary for the French version (Terre d’Espagne), which, apparently, is now lost.

La Tosca (1940) Italy
Director: Carl Koch (started by Renoir),
Production Company/Distribution: Era-Scalera Films
Producer: Arturo Ambrosio
Assisatnt Director: Luchino Visconti
Screenplay: Allesandro De Stefani, Carl Koch, Jean Renoir, Luchino Visconti, from the play by Victorien Sardou
Photography: Ubaldo Arata
Production Design: Gustavo Abel, Amleto Bonetti
Sound: Piero Cavazzuti
Music: Giacomo Puccini
Editor: Gino Betrone
Cast: Imperio Argentina (Tosca), Michel Simon (Scarpia), Rossano Brazzi (Mario Cavaradossi)

L’Album de famille de Jean Renoir (1956) France
Director: Roland Gritti
Production Company: Paris Télévision, then Franco-London Films
Distributor: Cinédis
Script: Pierre Desgraupes
Photography: Jean Tournier
Cast (as themselves): Jean Renoir, Pierre Desgraupes

Jean Renoir: le patron (1967) Dir: Jacques Rivette, France
1. La Recherche du relatif
2. La Direction des acteurs
3. La Règle et l’exception
Production company: O.R.T.F.
Producers: Janine Bazin and André S. Labarthe
Photography: Pierre Mareschal
Sound: Guy Solignac
Edited by Jean Eustache
Also featuring Marcel Dalio, Pierre Braunberger and Catherine Rouvel.
Three three feature-length films featuring Renoir and his work, made for the television series Cinéastes de notre temps. Part 2 was not broadcast, because Renoir’s conversation with Michel Simon was judged too “racy”!

La Direction d’acteur par Jean Renoir (1968) France
Director: Gisèle Braunberger
Producer: Pierre Braunberger
Production Manager: Roger Fleytoux
Photography: Edmond Richard
Sound: René Forget
Editor: Mireille Maubena
Cast (as themselves): Jean Renoir, Gisèle Braunberger
Jean Renoir directs actress Gisèle Braunberger in rehearsals of a text he has adapted from Rumer Godden’s story Breakfast at the Nikolaïdes, using the “Italian Method”.

Louis Lumière (1967) France
Director: Eric Rohmer
Production Company: O.R.T.F. in the series Allez au cinéma
Cast (as themselves): Henri Langlois and Jean Renoir
This is the film which inspired the polemical lecture about film history which Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) delivers to fellow members of the collective in Godard’s La Chinoise (1967): “There’s a false idea going the rounds concerning newsreels in the cinema… people say it was Lumière who invented newsreels, that he made documentaries, whilst, at the same time, there was another guy called Méliès, and everybody says about him that he made fiction, that he was a dreamer, that he filmed ghosts, optical illusions. I think it was precisely the opposite… A couple of days ago, at the Cinémathèque, I saw a film on Lumière by Monsieur Henri Langlois… And this film proved that Lumière was a painter, which is to say that he filmed… exactly the same things as were being painted by the painters of his time, people like Picasso, Manet or Renoir… He filmed stations, public gardens, people coming out of factories… people playing cards, tramways… Méliès filmed… a trip to the moon, the visit of the King of Yugoslavia to President Fallières… and now, with the passage of time, one can see that these are really the newsreels of the era… O.K., maybe as he did them they were reconstructed newsreels, and I’ll go even further: I would say that Méliès was a Brechtian…” (my translation)
The visual quality of the Lumière material is a revelation.

The Christian Licorice Store (1971) U.S.A.
Director: James Frawley
Production Company: National General Pictures
Producers: Michael S. Laughlin, James Frawley
Dsirtibution: Cinema Center Films
Photography (color): David Butler
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Beau Bridges, Maud Adams, Gilbert Roland and (as themselves) Jean and Dido Renoir.

Jean Renoir (1993) U.K.
Director: David Thompson
Production Company/Distributor: Omnibus, BBC TV
Two one-hour films on Renoir and his work.

Un Tournage à la campagne (1994) France
A revealing compilation (by Alain Fleischer) of out-takes from the shooting of Une Partie de campagn, illustrating, amongst other things, the subtle changes in lines of dialogue from one take to another, the result of the actors being encouraged to improvise.

Renoir in the Theatre:

Jules César (Julius Caesar), France 1954
Adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by Grisha Dabat and Mitsou Dabat
Director: Jean Renoir.
Producer: Philippe Decharte:
Production Manager: Jean Serge
Music: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
Cast: Paul Meurisse (Brutus), Jean-Pierre Aumont (Marc Anthony), Henri Vidal (Julius Caesar), Yves Robert (Cassius), Loleh Bellon (Portia), Françoise Christophe ( Calpurnia), Jean Parédès (Casca), Jean Topart (Octavius Caesar), Gaston Modot (Ligarius), Henri-JacquesHuet (Flavius), Jaque-Catelain (Decius), François Vibert (soothsayer).
A gala production, staged for a single night in the Roman Arena in Arles to celebrate the 2000th. anniversary of the foundation of the city by Julius Caesar.

Orvet, France 1955
An original play in three acts by Jean Renoir.
Director: Jean Renoir
Producer: Jean Dercante
General Manager: Alex Desbiolles
Sets: Georges Wakhevitch
Scene Painting: Laverdet
Costumes: Barbara Karinska, Givenchy
Music: Joseph Kosma
Lighting Albert Richard
Technical Assistant: Robert Petit
Stage manager: Maurice Fraigneau
Cast: Leslie Caron (Orvet), Paul Meurisse (Georges), Michel Herbault (Olivier), Catherine Le Couey (Mme. Camus), Raymond Bussières (Coutant), Jacques Jouanneau (William), Marguerite Cassan (Clotilde), Yorick Royan (Berthe), Suzanne Courtal (Mère Vipère), Pierre Olaf (Phillipe-le-pod-bot), Georges Saillard (Doctor), Georges Hubert (First Huntsman), Henry Charret (Second Huntsman).
Written for Leslie Caron.

Le Grand couteau (The Big Knife), France 1957
Translation and adaptation by Jean Renoir of the play by his friend Clifford Odets, which had been filmed in 1955 by Renoir’s former assistant Robert Aldrich.
Director: Jean Serge
Film Sequence with Daniel Gélin shot by Jean Renoir,
Sets: Fred Givone
Lighting: Hughes Pinneux
Stage Manager: Georges Frémeuax
Cast: Daniel Gélin (Charles Castle), Claude Génia (Marion Castle), Paul Bernard (Marcus Hoff), Paul Cambo (Smiley Coy), France Delahalle (Patty Benedicte), Vera Norman (Dixie Evans), Teddy Bilis (Nat), Andrea Parisy (Connie Bliss), François Marie (Buddy Bliss), Robert Montcade (Hank Teagle), Andrès Wheatley (Russell), Jacques Dannoville (Gardener)

Carola, U.S.A. 1960
Translation from French and adaptation by Jean Renoir, Robert Goldsby and Angela Goldsby of Renoir’s original three act play
Director: Jean Renoir
Assistant Director: Robert Goldsby
Sets: John T. Dreier
Costumes: Shan Slattery
Technical Assistant: Herbert Schoeller
Stage Manager: Larry Belling
Cast: Deneen Peckinpah (Carola Janssen), Robert Martinson (General von Clodius), Eileen Coltrell (Mireille), Caroline Rosqui (Josette), Sydney Field (Campan), Dan Moore (Henri), David Grimsted (Colonel Kroll), James Tripp (Parmentier), Duke Stroud (Camille), Malcolm Green (Lieutenant Keller), Robert Phalen (First French Gestapo Member), Charles Head (Second French Gestapo Member), David Vilner (First German Military Policeman), Dan Rich (Second German Military Policeman), Tony Loeb & Cliff Ghames (Members of the Gestapo), Jim Mantell & Lewis Brown (German Soldiers), Wendy Goodman, Shelia Ryan & Susan Brewer (Actresses), Miles Snyder & Stephen Vause (Actors).
A new adaptation by James Bridges for Hollywood Television Theater was booadcast on 3 February, 1973, on WNET, New York, directed by Norman Lloyd. The cast included Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Albert Paulsen, Michael Sacks, Anthony Zerbe, Carmen Zapete and Douglas Anderson. The Production Designer was Eugène Lourié

Select Bibliography

By Renoir, including transcripts of his finished films:

Orvet, Paris, Gallimard, 1955

Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (continuity of the film), L’Avant-scène du cinéma, 1961

Renoir: My Father, London and Boston, Collins and Little Brown, 1962 (translation [by Randolph and Dorothy Weaver] of Pierre-August Renoir, mon père, Paris, Hachette, 1962)

Une Partie de campagne (continuity of the film), L’Avant-scène du cinéma, 1962 (published together with that of Vigo’s Zéro de conduite)

Grand Illusion, London, Lorrimer, 1970, revised 1984 (a translation [by Marianne Alexandre and Andrew Sinclair] of the continuity of the film La Grand illusion, published by L’Avant-scène du cinéma, 1964)

The Rules of the Game, London, Lorrimer, 1970, revised 1984 (a translation [by John McGrath and Maureen Teitelbaum] of the continuity of the film La Règle du jeu published by L’Avant-scène du cinéma, 1965)

The Notebooks of Captain Georges, London and Boston, Collins and Little Brown, 1966 (translation [by Norman Denny] of Renoir’s novel Les Cahiers du capitaine Georges, Paris, Gallimard, 1966)

My Life and My Films, London, Collins 1974 (a translation [by Norman Denny] of the director’s memoirs: Ma Vie et mes films, Paris, Flammarion, 1974; this contains an account of the setting up of La Grande illusion)

Ecrits 1926-1971, Paris, Pierre Belfond, 1974 (Renoir’s journalism and other writings collected by Claud Gauteur)

La Chienne (continuity of the film), L’Avant-scène du cinéma, 1975

Carola (a play in three acts, complete text), L’Avant-scène du théâtre, 1976

Entretiens et propos, Cahiers du cinéma, 1979

Renoir on Renoir: Interviews, Essays and Remarks, translated by Carol Volk, Cambridge, New York, Port Chester, Melbourne, Sydney, Cambridge University Press, 1989

Letters, edited by Lorraine Lo Bianco and David Thompson, translated by Craig Carison, Natasha Arnold, Michael Wells, Anneliese Varaldviev, London and Boston, Faber and Faber, 1994

La Coeur à l’aise, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, novel

Le Crime de l’anglais, Paris, Flammarion, 1979, novel

Geneviève, Paris, Flammarion, 1979, novel

Julienne et son amour and En avant, Rosalie !, Henri Veyrier, 1979, unproduced scripts

Oeuvres de cinéma inédites, Paris, Les Cahiers du cinéma/Gallimard, 1982, synopses, treatments, découpages

On Renoir and his Films:

André Bazin (ed. by François Truffaut, from the notes left by Bazin on his death), Jean Renoir, Paris, Lebovici, 1989

Ronald Bergan, Jean Renoir, Projections of Paradise: a Biography, London, Bloomsbury, 1992

Richard Boston, Boudu Saved from Drowning (Boudu sauvé des eaux), London, BFI Classics, 1992, (recommended critical and contextual study of a much-loved film)

Bernard Chardère, Jean Renoir, Lyon, Premier Plan nos. 22, 23, 24, May 1962

Raymond Durgnat, Jean Renoir, London, Studio Vista, Cassell and Collier Macmillan, 1975 (a pioneering English-language study of the films; full of illuminating critical insights, despite many minor errors in its descriptions of the action)

Christopher Faulkner, Jean Renoir: A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, G.K. Hall, 1979 (contains a biographical chronology; a critical introduction to the films; a complete filmography; publication details and outline summaries of books and articles by and about Renoir, up to 1975)

Christopher Faulkner, The Social Cinema of Jean Renoir, Princeton, N.J. and Guildford, Princeton University Press, 1986

Max Gaillard and Vincent Pinard (conception), Exposition Jean Renoir, Le Havre, L’Unité Cinéma de la Maison de la Culture du Havre and Centre d’Animation Culturelle Jean Renoir de Dieppe, 1982

Penelope Gilliatt (ed.), Jean Renoir: Essays, Conversations, Reviews, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1975

Pierre Guislain, La Règle du jeu: Jean Renoir, Paris, Hatier, 1990

James Leahy, “Image, Meaning, History… & the Voice of God”, Vertigo, no. 4, Spring, 1994 (on La Vie est à nous, narration and March of Time)

James Leahy, “Is it on Video? The Angel and the Vampire”, Vertigo, no. 5, Winter 1994-5 (on Le Crime de Monsieur Lange)

James Leahy, notes on Renoir, Le Crime de Monsieur Lange and French Cancan, published with the release of those films on video, London, Connoisseur Video, Spring 1996

James Leahy, “Jean Renoir”, London, Encarta CD-ROM, Websters Microsoft International, 1998 and subsequent editions

Martin O’Shaughnessy, Jean Renoir, Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 2000

Alexander Sesonske, Jean Renoir: the French Films, 1924-1939, Cambridge Mass. and London, Harvard University Press, 1980 (comprehensively researched critical account of the films, a mixture of the insightful and the pedestrian)

Gerry Turvey, “1936, the culture of the Popular Front and Jean Renoir”, London, Academic Press, Media, Culture and Society, Vol.4, No.4, October 1982

Peter Wollen, “La Règle du jeu and Modernity”, Film Studies, no.1, 1999

General Film:

J. Dudley Andrew, Mists of Regret, Princeton N.J., Princeton University Press, 1995

Mary Lea Bandy (ed.), Rediscovering French Film, New York, Museum of Modem Art, 1983 (an anthology of important articles by film historians, critics and filmmakers; has a substantial bibliography)

Jacques B. Brunius, En Marge du cinéma français, Paris, Arcanes, 1954

Noël Burch, Theory of Film Practice, New York, Praeger, 1973 (this is a translation and revision, by the author, of Praxis du cinéma, Paris, Gallimard, 1969 and includes a major essay on Nana)

“Cinéma/Sound”, special issue of Yale French Studies, New Haven, Conn., No. 60, 1980

Colin Crisp, French Classic Cinema, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1993

Goffredo Fofi, “The Cinema of the Popular Front in France (1934-38)”, London, Society for Education in Film and Television, Screen, Vol.13, No.4, Winter 1972-3

John Gibbs, Mise-en-scène: Film Style and Interpretation, London and New York, Wallflower Press, 2002

Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, Paris, Collection des Cahiers du cinéma, Pierre Belfond, 1968

Susan Hayward and Ginette Vincendeau (eds.), French Film: Texts and Contexts, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1990

Susan Hayward, French National Cinema, London & New York, Routledge, 1993 (important, revealing and well-researched account of the economic infrastructure of French filmmaking)

Norman King, Abel Gance: a Politics of Spectacle, London, BFI, 1984

Rémi Fournier Lanzoni, French Cinema: from its Beginnings to the Present, New York & London, Continuum 2002

James Leahy, “Historical Development of Cinema in France”, London, Encarta CD-ROM, Websters Microsoft International, 1997 and subsequent editions

James Leahy, “All in the Script? So Why Make the Movie?”, Vertigo, Vol.2, No.2, 2002

Eugène Lourié, My Work in Films, San Diego, New York and London, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985 (the memoirs of the production designer whose collaboration with Renoir lasted from Les Bas fonds through the Hollywood years to The River)

Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Screen, Vol.16, No.3, Autumn 1975

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (d.), The Oxford History of World Cinema, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1996

Gilberto Perez, The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium, Baltimore, Maryland, John Hopkins University Press, 1998

V. I. Pudovkin, Film Technique and Film Acting, New York, Grove Press, 1960

Barry Salt, Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis, London, Starword, 2nd edition, 1992

David Thomson, Movie Man, New York, Stein and Day, 1967

David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, U.S.A. and U.K., Alfred A. Knopf and Little Brown, 2002

Ginette Vincendeau and Keith Reader (eds.), La Vie est à nous: French Cinema of the Popular Front 1935-1938, London, National Film Theatre, BFI, 1986 (a collection of essays, some in translation, to introduce a major season of films at the National Film Theatre on the 50th anniversary of the election of the Popular Front government in France)

Alan Williams, Republic of Images, Cambridge, Mass. and London, Harvard University Press, 1992

Non-Verbal Communication Systems:

Michael Argyle, The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour, Harmondswoth, Mx., Penguin Books, 1967

Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, St. Albans, Paladin, 1973 (essays on order and organisation in living systems, including discussions of non-verbal communication, and how these have been elaborated into complex forms of art)

Ray L. Birtwhistell, Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body-Motion Communication, U.S.A., University of Pennsylvania Press 1970 (pioneering scientific investigation of the systems now popularly known as “body language”)

Edward Hall, The Silent Language, New York, Fawcett World Library, 1966

(space considered not as a metaphor for human relationships, but as a major determinant of communicative and emotional interactions within and across cultures)

Edward Hall, The Hidden Dimension, New York, Doubleday Anchor, 1969

(introduction to proxemics, Hall’s name for his pioneering scientific study of humanity’s organisation and use of space)

John Laver and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in Face to Face Interaction, Harmondswoth, Mx., Penguin Books, 1972

Alan Lomax, “Choreometrics and Ethnographic Filmmaking”, Filmmaker’s Newsletter Vol. 4, No. 4, February 1971. (Lomax’s seminal account of the scientific study of dance patterns was brought to my attention by Nick Ray, his friend since the 1930s. We were sitting in Lomax’s apartment, which Nick used to borrow when the owner was away for the weekend. Drawing on the ideas of some of the writers above, I was explaining that I believed that much of the power and poetry of Nick’s films depended on their articulations of space and movement. The same is true of those of Renoir. Lomax’s insights are relevant not only to documentary and ethnographic filmmakers, but to any analysis of how films communicate their meanings and generate their impact).


John Berger and others, Ways of Seeing, London, BBC and Penguin Books, 1972 (based on the television series of the same name)

Tom Bishop, Pirandello and the French Theater, New York, New York University Press, 1960. (Includes short but effective discussions of Renoir’s plays, and of The Golden Coach, plus an extract from a letter from Renoir to the author affirming Pirandello’s importance)

Guy de Maupassant, Une Partie de campagne, originally published in La Vie moderne (April 1881) and reprinted in the same year in the collection La Maison Tellier. The translation mentioned in the text appears in A Day in the Country and Other Stories, trans. David Coward, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1990

Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education, Baltimore, Maryland and Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1964 (a translation by Robert Baldick of L’Education sentimentale, Paris ,1869)

Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms, London, Macmillan, 1989 (the second volume of the novelist’s autobiography, which contains a full account of her friendship with Renoir, and their collaboration on The River whilst the film was being written in California then shot on location in Bengal)

L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between, London, Penguin Books, 1997 (first published 1953)

Herbert R. Lottman, The Left Bank: Writers, Artists and Politics from the Popular Front to the Cold War, London, Heinemann, 1982.

John Northam, Ibsen’s Dramatic Method: a Study of the Prose Plays, London, Faber and Faber 1953 (a study of the dramatist’s use, as revealed by his stage directions, of the elements of staging [costume, sets, props, lighting, movement, physical appearance] to generate poetic and dramatic impact, and to articulate his themes)

Donald Posner, “The Swinging Women of Watteau and Fragonard”, Art Bulletin LXIV, March 1982

Articles in Senses of Cinema

French CanCan by Rick Thompson

Lunch on the Grass by Stuart Lord

Renoir and the Scandal of “First Love” or The Perils of Catherine by Tag Gallagher

A French Connection: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle in Tandem with Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game by Peter Verstraten

La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937) by Tamara Tracz

Arthur Shields and the Politics of Jean Renoir’s The River by Anthony Sellers


Web Resources

Canadian Journal of Communication
A long piece by Christopher Faulkner on Renoir’s politics in the USA.

A Guide to Online Jean Renoir Materials
Sister site to Film Directors: Articles on the Internet Website; in addition to articles, this Renoir resource centre provides information on films, recent news, retrospectives and bibliographies.

Film summary: Grand Illusion
Not recommended for individuals who haven’t seen the film.

The French films of Jean Renoir from The New York film Annex
Some Renoir films available here.

Jean Renoir
Capsule reviews of La Chienne, La Grande illusion and The River.

Je m’appelle Jean Renoir…
A French language site dedicated to Renoir.

Click here to search for Jean Renoir DVDs, videos and books at


  1. David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, U.S.A. and U.K., Alfred A. Knopf and Little Brown, 2002, where he adds: “He is the greatest of directors; he justifies cinema. But he shrugs off the weight of ‘masterpieces’ or ‘definitive statements.'”
  2. This was in 1944, when the only versions available had been radically cut. See interview with Richard Roud, “Memories of Resnais” in Sight and Sound, Vol. 38, No. 3, Summer 1969.
  3. Interview filmed by ORTF 1961, cited in Alexander Sesonske, Jean Renoir: the French Films, 1924-1939, Cambridge Mass. and London, Harvard University Press, 1980
  4. Octave (Jean Renoir) in La Règle du jeu
  5. Interview with Marguerite Bussot, Pour Vous, 25 January 1939, reprinted in Bernard Chardère, Jean Renoir, Lyon, Premier Plan nos. 22, 23, 24, May 1962
  6. Martin O’Shaughnessy, Jean Renoir, Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 2000
  7. Eugène Lourié, My Work in Films, San Diego, New York and London, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985
  8. Jean Renoir, Ma Vie et mes films, Paris, Flammarion, 1974 (my translation)
  9. Jean Renoir, My Life and My Films, London, Collins 1974
  10. Ronald Bergan, Jean Renoir, Projections of Paradise: a Biography, London, Bloomsbury, 1992. This has been an invaluable source of biographical information for this article, although his informant Alice Figheira seems uneccessarily and perhaps misleadingly catty about Renoir’s relationship with Marguerite. The relationship between Lange and Valentine in Le Crime de Monsieur Lange suggests the possibility of something richer.
  11. V. I. Pudovkin, Film Technique and Film Acting, New York, Grove Press, 1960
  12. Renoir, My Life and My Films, 1974
  13. Renoir, Ma Vie et mes films, (my translation)
  14. Renoir, My Life and My Films, 1974
  15. Barry Salt, Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis, London, Starword, 2nd edition, 1992
  16. Lourié, 1985
  17. Renoir, My Life and My Films, 1974
  18. Bergan, 1992, who also cites the quotation, which is from Jean Renoir, Entretiens et propos, Cahiers du cinéma, 1979
  19. Cited in Christopher Faulkner, Jean Renoir: A Guide to References and Resources, Boston, G.K. Hall, 1979.
  20. Norman King, Abel Gance: a Politics of Spectacle, London, BFI, 1984. The received wisdom is that Gance cut into his original negative because he needed the money a re-release might earn him. However King comments: “it was a new film, and one which had a specific impact in the political circumstances of 1935.”
  21. Renoir, My Life and My Films, 1974
  22. Renoir’s description of this incident, which he does not connect with the content of his film, is in Claud Gauteur (ed.), Ecrits 1926-1971, Paris, Pierre Belfond, 1974.
  23. Bergan, 1992
  24. Bergan, 1992, quoting La Cinématographie française (France’s pre-war trade paper).
  25. Renoir, Ma Vie et mes films, (my translation)
  26. Renoir, My Life and My Films, 1974
  27. Jean-Luc Godard interviewed by Cahiers du cinéma, December 1962, translated for Jean-Luc Godard, Godard on Godard, eds. Jean Narboni and Tom Milne, Da Capo Press, 1972
  28. Sesonske, 1980
  29. Guy De Maupassant, Une Partie de campagne, Paris in La Vie moderne, April 1881, reprinted (1881) in the collection La Maison Tellier
  30. Donald Posner, “The Swinging Women of Watteau and Fragonard”, Art Bulletin, LXIV, March 1982
  31. “A Memoir by Henri Cartier-Bresson” in Jean Renoir, Letters, (eds.) David Thompson and Lorraine Lo Bianco, translated by Craig Carison, Natasha Arnoldi, Michael Wells and Anneliese Varaldviev, London and Boston, Faber and Faber, 1994
  32. Guy De Maupassant, A Day in the Country and Other Stories, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1990, translation by David Coward
  33. Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education, Baltimore, Maryland and Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1964, a translation by Robert Baldick of L’Education sentimentale, Paris 1869
  34. L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between, London, Penguin Books, 1997 (first published 1953)
  35. Raymond Durgnat, Jean Renoir, London, Studio Vista, 1975
  36. Peter Bogdanovich, “Director’s Cut”, The Independent (London), 21 December 1990
  37. 29 August 1955, when the film was first released in the U.K.; at that time, reviews in The Times were unsigned.
  38. Village Voice, 2 April 1985, on the occasion of the American première of a complete version of the film.

About The Author

James Leahy is a film historian and screenwriter, and has worked with Nick Ray, Ken McMullen (he co-wrote 1871, an official selection at Cannes in 1990) and Med Hondo. His writings on cinema have appeared in The Guardian, Sight & Sound, Cahiers du cinéma in English, Vertigo and PIX.

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