Even though I enjoy Impressionist paintings quite much, I have to admit I wasn’t that well informed about Renoir’s domestic life before watching the movie that has the name of the master as a title. I formerly learned about the life and works of the major artists, but it seems that as you age, you seem to start to forget most of the things you once read. At any rate, I watched ‘Renoir’ expecting to be given an opportunity to immerse in the environment that made Renoir the master he was, and I wasn’t disappointed.
‘Renoir’ is a dramatization of the painter’s relationship with his son, future filmmaker Jean Renoir, and Andree, the last model that posed for his paintings for an extended period of time. The pace of the film is very slow, but it wouldn’t have worked any other way. The impression that lingers after the credits start rolling is that you have admired a painting for two hours. The colours, lights, and fairy-like landscapes make the film a stunning visual experience, which counterbalances the lack of dramatic tension. The film reminded me a bit of the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, but the fact that is spoken entirely in French and has no Hollywood stars in the cast makes it a little gem of a film that makes you feel you have to visit a museum that very instant.
The young muse Andree is at the centre of the film and what a muse she is. Christa Theret is beautiful and perfectly cast for the role of the girl that makes both Renoir the father and son become smitten with. Michel Bouquet also shines as an elderly Pierre-Auguste Renoir struggling to paint while battling a very bad case of rheumatoid arthritis. The flock of women servants surrounding the crippled master is a delight, as is the paradisiac retreat in Cagnes-sur-Mer where the war is only a distant reality and everything seems to exist only for Renoir to paint his muse. Details such as a paintbrush dunked in smoking bright orange dissipating in a glass of water bring finesse to the film, letting the viewers know they are there for a visual feast and nothing else.