May 10, 2013


I had been looking forward to a May 10th movie date for weeks. The plan was to see The Great Gatsbybut since I was lucky enough to attend the sneak preview on Monday night, we saw Renoir tonight instead. Eric is so good about indulging my love of French cinema! The last film we saw at Milwaukee's Downer Theatre truly was a "downer!" After seeing Amour, I feared I might never convince Eric to go to another French film. I am so glad he obliged tonight because Renoir was beautiful. Set during the summer of 1915 in Cagne-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, the film explores the relationships among elderly Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, his model, Andrée Heuschling, and Renoir's son and future filmmaker, Jean. When Jean returns home after being wounded in "The Great War," his father's muse becomes inspiration for the son as well. The film is a living Renoir painting, bathed in the singularly radient light of the Côte d'Azur. The gentle breezes, the verdant landscapes, Andrée's creamy porcelain skin and flowing red hair all contribute to the captivating composition. The enchanting cinematic canvas feels complete as Renoir rinses his brush of its auburn curls of paint. The film culminates abruptly with the notion of a transition from father to son, from idyllic Impressionism to avant-garde cinematography.


I love French Impressionism, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir is one of my favorite artists. His paintings celebrate the joy of everyday life. His subjects are often outside dancing, flirting, eating, and drinking - c'est la joie de vivre! What I like best about Renoir's paintings is his inclusion of deep navy blues to offset the lovely, soft pastel shades. I have visited two of my favorites, Bal du moulin de la Galette in Paris' Musée d'Orsay and Les Deux Sœurs (sur la terrace) at the Art Institute of Chicago several times.

Bal du moulin de la Galette 
(Renoir, oil on canvas, 1876 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris)

Les Deux Sœurs (sur la terrace)
(Renoir, oil on canvas 1881 - Art Institute of Chicago)

Le déjeuner des canotiers
(Renoir, oil on canvas 1880-1881 - The Phillips Collection)

I have yet to visit my favorite Renoir painting,  Le déjeuner des canotiers in the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. I adore the idea that the subjects have been enjoying an afternoon of sailing on the Seine, followed by lunch at the Maison Fournaise. Suzanne Vreeland's Luncheon of the Boating Party transports the reader to Sunday afternoons on the café terrace where Renoir subtly directs his models as he creates his masterpiece. The characters and their relationships are vividly depicted in Vreeland's words as well as on Renoir's canvas. We become intimately acquainted with fellow Impressionist, Gustave Caillebotte (seated backwards on the chair), as well as the other actors, models, and friends of Renoir. 

Actress, Ellen Andrée "the girl with the water glass." is also the subject of discussion in one of my favorite films, Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulin. In Amélie, M. Dufayel, "The Glass Man," confined to his apartment because of his brittle bones, paints and repaints copies of Le déjeuner des canotiers. He is never quite able to master "la fille au verre d'eau." 

In his discussions, with Amélie, M. Dufayel uses the girl with the glass to coax Amélie into admitting that she meddles in other people's lives because she is afraid to deal with her own feelings.

Oh, I love Amélie!

May 10, 2013 Photo of the day: "Renoir"

Post script (February 19, 2015): Per a reader's suggestion, here is a great resource for Renoir lovers: