Renoir | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


In this bio-doc, the elderly painter Auguste Renoir finds inspiration in a new model


Gilles Bourdos' film depicts a few months in the life of Auguste Renoir, as the famed impressionist painter grows increasingly infirm. It's France in 1915, and while Europe is beset with war, it's a gorgeous, peaceful summer at Renoir's country estate on the Cote d'Azur.

The crippled Renoir (Michel Bouquet) is inspired by the arrival of new model Andrée (Christa Theret), a spunky teen-age girl who dreams of being a film star. (Besides the war, there are occasional intrusions into Renoir's paint-based idyll by the newer film-based art forms.) Also arriving for recuperation, having been injured at the front, is Renior's soldier son, Jean (Vincent Rottiers). (Much later, he will be famous film director Jean Renoir.)

The father, son and model form a loose love triangle, though most of the conflict involves ideas: beauty, the cost of war, the obligations of family and what constitutes professional success. Renoir isn't a terribly interesting film — you won't learn much about the painter that you didn't already know — and its dramas are low-key. 

Bourdos is clearly inspired by Renoir's style, and seeks to emulate it here, filling his film with lots of fuzzy-edged color and not many sharp lines. The film seems to skitter around its big ideas rather than engage them. Lack of communication is among the Renoir family problems, but for us, that too often means pedestrian dialogue — unless Pere Renoir is delivering one of his on-the-nose epigrams. But the look of the film is, as you'd expect, painterly: rich with color, artful clutter and gorgeous light.

Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest
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Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest

By Pam Smith