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Jean Renoir (Whirlpool of Fate / Nana / Charleston Parade / The Little Match Girl / La Marseillaise / The Doctor's Horrible Experiment / The Elusive Corporal) (Three-Disc Collector's Edition)
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Renoir's first feature film, the 1925 silent La Fille de L'Eau aka Whirlpool, is a highly enjoyable tale of the riverbank, which is at once an almost Griffith-esque melodrama and visually experimental: there's a wonderfully surreal dream sequence, a memorable and striking shot of a boatman walking along the barge as it drifts by the camera and some furious crosscutting in an attempted rape sequence. There's a fine sense of the life and people along the river's edge to it, and it has a good sense of humor too. All too often the Cybill Shepherd to Renoir's Peter Bogdanovich, for once Renoir's wife and muse Catherine Hessling (like Shepherd a model, in this case for Renoir's father, rather than an actress) is in her element here, neither miscast nor asked to do anything beyond her abilities as the Mary Pickford-like heroine. There are some problems with the picture quality compared to the other titles in LionsGate's Renoir Collection DVD - the transfer was taken from one of the few surviving prints - but considering the film's rarity it's more than acceptable.
Renoir's second feature, 1926's adaptation of Emile Zola's Nana, reunites many of the key players from La Fille de l'Eau, but to less effect. In many ways Renoir's take on a Von Stroheim film, there are some moments of wit - such as the funeral procession of admirers to Nana's stage door after a disastrous first night - and a lightness of touch but it's constantly undermined by a horribly miscast lead.Read more ›
It's unlike any historical film ever made. It's focus is on the particular episodes that lead to the great events. Despite the lack of spectacle and grandstanding that accompanies conventional takes on the subject matter, ''La Marseillaise'' is more entertaining than any of these kind of films. It's one of Renoir's most radical films in it's narrative structure. It has neither plot nor main characters to pivot around. It's anchored above all by Renoir's pacing as well as his legendary ability to shift moods without upsetting the tone.
The tone is light throughout the film until the final battle at the Tuileries between the sans-cullotes and the Swiss Guard who serve Louis XVI. The battle when it arrives is shown in a way that gives it neither excitement or thrill and the silence that it generates seems like an ugliness that is absent in the rest of the film. Even better is the dialogue. Renoir conducted strict, extensive research for this film and the dialogue was largely ''found'' in late 18th Century diaries, pamphlets, notices. The dialogue stresses smells, tastes, air and atmosphere. Like the early scene where the sans-cullotes free a prison and the prisoner remarks about the toxicity within the walls, details that many films are unable to fit in their narratives.
The film's great opening scene is set in the Palace of Versailles after a caption that tells us that it is ''14 July 1789''.Read more ›
There are 2 features and 2 short films and all 4 feature Renoir's then wife Catherine Hessling. WHIRLPOOL OF FATE, from 1925, is his first film and tells the story of an orphaned girl, abused by her uncle, who tries to make a life for herself on her own. The second is a lavish adaptation of Emile Zola's NANA made the following year. The 2 short films are quite fanciful offerings with one of them never intended for distribution. There's an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL from 1928 but the surrealistic 1927 opus CHARLESTON PARADE which was made as a lark with leftover shooting days from NANA defies description. It wasn't shown until the 1960s.
This 3 disc set is being offered by Lionsgate Films (Canada's largest film distributor) and is an incredible bargain at the price. NANA has been beautifully restored with color tints added. WHIRLPOOL OF FATE comes from a 16mm print and is in OK condition but it's great to have this little gem. CHARLESTON PARADE and LITTLE MATCH GIRL are in rougher shape but are quite watchable. That's remarkable for CHARLESTON PARADE which Renoir never intended to distribute.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Slow wandering early works. Pro communist Renior is loved by the critics, but he bores as you wander through this collection.Published on September 3, 2012 by Jack Bert
It was a case of serendipity. As we embarked upon our roller-coaster ride of the French Revolution, I advised my students that THE film to try to track down is Renoir's "La... Read morePublished on January 19, 2008 by Freezin' Geezer
The silent films, two full length and one short, star his very energetic wife. See the short, which is a thorough sendup of what the Europeans call civilization, though there is... Read morePublished on June 26, 2007 by Ford
C'est epatant de flaner avec M. Renoir a travers l'histoire de la France. How glorious to be able to savor these films.Published on June 12, 2007 by Manny
Jean Renoir is one of the (deservedly) acknowledged masters of French cinema, and to get five feature-length films at this price is a steal. Read morePublished on May 25, 2007 by Joshua Beall
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