CHARLESTON (Jean Renoir, 1927)

An absolutely amazing piece of sociological science fiction, Jean Renoir’s silent dance musical “Sur un air de Charleston” is twenty minutes of hilarious, zany satire. It is also a bold statement that contradicts the position that photography and theater are the principal art forms in which cinema finds its roots. Renoir casts his compelling vote […]

LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR (Jean Renoir, 1932)

From Georges Simenon, writer-director Jean Renoir’s Night at the Crossroads is a dark, humorous, fog-enshrouded mystery in a remote suburban patch of near-nothingness, consisting of three houses and a garage, outside Paris. Pierre Renoir, the filmmaker’s brother, wittily plays Inspector Maigret, who is investigating the murder of “the Jew,” perhaps by “the Dane”: victim and […]

THE ELUSIVE CORPORAL (Jean Renoir, 1962)

By common critical procedure, Jean Renoir’s late-career Le caporal épinglé, because it is about two French soldiers who keep trying to escape a wartime German prison-camp, is complacently clubbed by comparison with Renoir’s La grande illusion a quarter-century earlier. In a sense, Renoir is inviting—daring—the comparison. From Jacques Perret’s 1947 autobiographical novel, Le caporal épinglé […]

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (Jean Renoir, Jean Tédesco, 1928)

Shortly after completing “La petite marchande d’allumettes,” based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Jean Renoir and Catherine Hessling divorced, making it the last film where Renoir directed Hessling. Here, the usually deficient Hessling charms, the whole film enchants, and Renoir achieves poignancy that is wedded to incomparable visual beauty.      Karen, who is starving, […]

LA FILLE DE L’EAU (Jean Renoir, 1924)

The first film that Jean Renoir solo-directed is a slight, intermittently lovely thing that accomplishes two tasks: it occasions a flexing of all manner of cinematic technique while showcasing its star, Renoir’s wife at the time, Catherine Hessling, in the lead role. Written as an implausible rural melodrama by Pierre Lestringuez, La fille de l’eau—literally, […]