Film Review: Sensual ‘Renoir’ Fails to Explore Titular Giants’ Genius

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CHICAGO – Naming a picture after two of the great artistic minds in human history is quite a high bar to set. Director/co-writer Gilles Bourdos attempts to tell the tale of both impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) and his son, the future filmmaker Jean Renoir (Vincent Rottiers), who would go on to helm controversial masterpieces such as 1939’s “The Rules of the Game.” These are fascinating people, but the script doesn’t even begin to do them justice.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

Taking place in the twilight of Pierre-Auguste’s life circa 1915, Bourdos’s lead-footed vignette upstages its two male subjects with the underdeveloped character of Andrée Heuschling (Christa Theret), a woman who would prove to be the favored muse for both artists. It’s hard to say how Andrée influenced these men, apart from exuding her youthful radiance, and there are times when the line between muse and prostitute becomes hopelessly blurred. Neither Renoir seems to view her as a human, but rather a tool to manipulate for their own purposes.

StarRead Matt Fagerholm’s full review of “Renoir” in our reviews section.

When he’s not suffering from the ailments of old age, Pierre-Auguste speaks in platitudes suitable for framing, while Jean remains cold and distant, even as he allegedly develops feelings for Andrée. Recovering from WWI-related wounds, Jean is determined to return to battle, a fact that bewilders his new flame and disappoints his father, who repeatedly voices his belief that art is all that matters. Whereas his father favored paintings that were “pleasant and cheerful,” Jean would later direct motion pictures aiming to provoke the masses with their scathing critiques of war and the French upper-class. Bourdos leaves a great deal of potential unrealized by allowing the encounters between father and son to be so stagey and wooden, lacking in the sort of insight that would’ve brought the audience closer to understanding the psyches of these great men. There’s an excellent story to be told about the impact Pierre-Auguste had on Jean, but this film is more interested in focusing on Andrée, perhaps because she’s just so darn photogenic. There’s an abundance of sensually lit nude scenes in which the camera caresses Theret’s skin with the same attention to detail as Renoir’s gaze. Yet there’s a hollowness to these characters that prevents any sexual spark from being ignited.

‘Renoir’ stars Christa Theret, Michel Bouquet, Vincent Rottiers and Thomas Doret. It was written by Gilles Bourdos, Michel Spinosa and Jerome Tonnerre and directed by Gilles Bourdos. It opened at Landmark Century Centre Cinema on April 26th, 2013. It is rated R.

StarContinue reading for Matt Fagerholm’s full “Renoir” review.

Christa Theret and Michel Bouquet star in Gilles Bourdos’s Renoir.
Christa Theret and Michel Bouquet star in Gilles Bourdos’s Renoir.
Photo credit: Fidelite Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films

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