Cinema Review: Renoir

Review by Pierre de Villiers

Imagine having to do justice to three intriguing historical figures in one movie. That’s the huge task that faced director Gilles Bourdos while making Renoir, a sumptuous offering that examines the relationship between famed Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, his film-making son Jean and the woman who inspired them both, Andrée Heuschling.

The year is 1915 and at his villa in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Côte d’Azur an arthritis-ridden Renoir (Bouquet) spends his twilight years painting nudes. Inspiration arrives in the shapely form of Andrée (Theret), a feisty redhead more interested in making money than acting as a muse

for a world-renowned painter. While her demeanour angers other women in the household, Renoir is entranced, as is his son Jean (Rottiers), who has come home to convalesce after almost losing a leg in World War I. Jean begins an affair with Andrée, but his desire to return to the trenches soon causes friction, both with his new lover and his concerned father.

Although the main characters in Renoir tear strips off each other, the film has no real dramatic twists and turns, causing it to gently meander along. Striking performances and visuals are needed and Bourdos, who co-wrote the script, gets just that from his cast and crew.

Veteran actor Bouquet brings gravitas and dignity to the role of Renoir while a frequently naked Theret bravely lets her body do most of the talking. The real star of the show, though, is Taiwan-born cinematographer and regular Bourdos collaborator Mark Ping Bing Lee. Taking his inspiration from Renoir’s paintings, Bing Lee puts together gorgeous sun-kissed scenes that make viewers want to seek out the work of the celebrated French artist as well as book a ticket to the Riviera.

FILM FACTS

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Starring: Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Vincent Rottiers Director: Gilles Bourdos

Running time: 111 minutes

Rating: R