Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

May 7, 2013

CALLERI: Movie about artist Renoir offers alluring story and images

Niagara Gazette — According to the new movie “Renoir,” the Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir believed that art was more important than war.

When his son Jean wanted to return to the front during World War I, after recuperating from injuries at the family’s house in the south of France, the elder Renoir tried to discourage him by insisting that it was always vital to create art, but that under certain circumstances, blindly obeying decisions made for the flag of a country was an act that should be challenged.

The celebrated painter was the father of three sons, all of whom would play important roles in French culture. The oldest was Pierre, a stage and film actor most famous for his Jericho the ragman character in “Les Enfants du Paradis” from 1945. The middle boy was the aforementioned Jean, who would go on to direct movies, including one of the greatest films ever made, “The Rules Of The Game” (1939). Claude, the youngest son (nicknamed Coco), would become a movie producer and also have a career as a noted ceramic artist. One of Pierre-Auguste’s grandsons, also named Claude, would be a vital cinematographer in France’s motion picture industry.

“Renoir” is a period piece that shimmers with the colors of the artist’s paintings. Renoir was obsessed with the beauty he saw around him. He found completely satisfying purpose in life by capturing that beauty on canvas. The film, thanks to the breathtaking work of Taiwan’s master cinematographer Mark Ping Bing Lee, is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen.

The film takes place in 1915 in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, where the widowed artist is surrounded by women: former models for his paintings, former lovers, and a household staff. They all tend to the 74-year old Auguste’s needs. For him to keep painting, he must be happy and calm. During this bucolic summer idyll, Renoir would struggle with the arthritis that was crippling his hands and paint virtually day and night. Son Coco lives with him, and to Renoir’s mournful dismay, the other boys are fighting in the war. The artist is a national treasure.

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