As RENOIR opens, a titian-haired beauty on a bicycle free-wheels down a country lane corridored by trees, fronds blowing gently around her face as spring’s quiet breeze whispers the promise of early summer on the Côte d’Azur. She stops at a gate, dismounts, her skirts bustling around her as she ventures up a long driveway to be greeted by a sullen young boy and to meet the elderly painter who is to become such an important part of her life.
This sumptuous entroit is only the beginning of an array of beautiful colour and gorgeous cinematography in Gilles Bourdos’ family biopic of late-Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet), his son Jean (Vincent Rottiers), a First World War convalescent who was to go on to become a successful filmmaker, and the artist’s latest model and muse, Andrée (Christa Theret) of the flowing flame-tinted locks.
…a romanticised yet enjoyable hour or so of pretty escapism in lush French countryside…
The film tenderly follows the dynamics of a family unable to express love or resentment, torn apart by war and unspoken heartbreak, as their lives become gilded with the presence of the playful, enigmatic yet often profoundly self-centred Andrée, and she teases a rejuvenation out of both father and son. The characterisation is exquisite, from the painter’s tormented distancing of his last-born to the quiet determination of his soldier son, even if Theret is irritating at times in her portrayal of the prettily pouting young model.
Bourdos’ latest offering shares the calming joy of Renoir Senior’s softly blended touch of brush and colour with the understated cinematic grandeur of his son Jean, but prances at times into contrived whimsy, with overdrawn passages of parasols trailing in dappled streams and babies gurgling in long-grass meadows. Overall, however, RENOIR’s easy-on-the-eye palette and hushed tones of pastel blended colours offer a romanticised yet enjoyable hour or so of pretty escapism in lush French countryside, dimpled with art and laughter and brushed-away tears.