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World Cinema Series: Jean Renoir French doublebill

What A doublebill of vintage films by the French film-maker Jean Renoir.
When 13 December 2011 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
Where National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897

If you are an SFS member (normal member or Reel Card member), you can obtain a free ticket by flashing your membership card at the SFS desk at the theatre entrance. You may ask for up to 2 more tickets for your guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Important: For Reel Card members, this screening will count for 2 admissions per person, due to the more expensive ticket price.

Non-members may sign up online or at the SFS desk -- we will issue membership on the spot. No tickets will be sold. Free seating.



In conjunction with Dreams & Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musée d'Orsay, Paris exhibition

by Jean Renoir
1936 / France / 39 min / 35mm | Rating TBC
In French with English subtitles

Partie de campagne is an adaptation of the short story of the same title by Guy de Maupassant. The writer is a friend of Jean Renoir's father, the eminent Impressionist painter, Auguste Renoir. The two men were friendly enough, but frankly admitted that they have nothing in common. Renoir says of the writer: "he always looks on the dark side." While Maupassant said of the painter, "he always looks on the bright side." One might as well say the same of this film. Renoir goes some way to lighten the dark, cynical world of Maupassant, but Maupassant brings a darker tone to Renoir's joyful, sensual immersion in nature.

Partie de campagne is set on the Loing and its banks south of Paris in 1880, the same period in which Maupassant sets his novel in. The film follows a family of Parisians, the Dufours, making their way to the countryside. While stopping at an inn by the river for a picnic, their presence is picked up by a pair of young bourgeois living in the area, Henri and Rodolphe (Georges Darnoux and Jacques Brunius, respectively), who decide to seduce the voluptuous Mme Dufour (Jane Marken) and her slim and beautiful daughter Henriette (Sylvie Bataille). This sets forth a chain of events that culminate in the loss of innocence on the part of Henriette.

Released in 1946, ten years after it is shot, Partie de campagne was hailed as an unfinished masterpiece. The freshness of Sylvie Bataille's performance was widely acclaimed. Since then, its reputation has grown to the point where it has become, if not Renoir's greatest film, then probably his best loved. In its bittersweet lyricism, its tenderness and poetic feel for nature, its tolerant satire of bourgeois conventions and its poignant sense of the transience of innocence and love, Partie de campagne seems to distil into its brief running-time the essence of all Renoir's films to come.

by Jean Renoir
1959 / France / 92 min / 35mm / Rating TBC
In French with English subtitles

Evoking Manet's 1863 painting of the same name, Renoir's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe explores the role of science, technology and the mass media in everyday day. Its theme is simplicity itself – the opposition of science and nature, technology and passion.

The world of modern science is represented in the film by Etienne Alexis (Paul Meurisse), a proponent of artificial insemination. He regards passion as a vestigial characteristic of human beings of which they should be cured like the common cold. He is engaged to be married to Marie-Charlotte (Ingrid Nordine), a health fanatic, and the stern head of the European Girl Scout movement. He is French, she German, and their spiritless marriage will herald the formation of a new European union dedicated to rational principles about human perfectibility. However, an excursion into the countryside sends Alexis into the arms of the beautiful Nénette (Catherine Rouvel) by means of the mistral, a feverish wind generated by the pan pipe of Gaspard (Charles Blavette), a Dionysian figure associated with a pet goat and a ruined temple of Diana. The wind arouses people's instincts and excites their appetites for food and sex. Alexis foregoes his prior held notions of rationality, science and artificial insemination. He now heartily embraces instinct, passion, and sex; especially after a chance encounter with Nénette bathing in the nude in the river. Alexis, the scientist, comes to the conclusion that "perhaps happiness is a submission to the natural order." He rejects Marie-Charlotte in favour of Nénette, who is pregnant with the child they have produced while lying in one another's arms. The marriage of science with nature is the future of the new Europe.

Renoir admitted that Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe is the only film in his entire body of work where he made a conscious attempt to evoke the paintings of his father Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the great Impressionist painter. This is evident in the film's primary location at Les Collettes, where the former house of the Renoir family is located and the place where Pierre-Auguste painted many of his later works, such as the magnificent series of canvases thematically focused on female bathers.

A Day in the Country (39 min) and Lunch on the Grass (92 min) will be screened together.

About the Director JEAN RENOIR

Francois Truffaut and Orson Welles described Renoir as "the greatest filmmaker in the world". There is no doubt that Renoir has dominated both the French cinema of the classical period and the international pantheon of great auteurs.

The second son of Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean Renoir grew up in the artistic milieu of turn-of-the-century Paris. His father's positive, poetic realism became a point of reference for Renoir, who also inherited his father's sympathetic attitude toward the commoner. Pierre-Auguste Renoir's legacy contributed to Jean Renoir's relative financial independence which would greatly shape his career path as a filmmaker.

Renoir's early career served the ambitions of his wife, Catharine Hessling, whom he directed in several silent films, such as La fille de l'eau / Whirlpool of Fate (1925), Nana (1926) and La Petite marchande d'allumettes / The Little Match Girl (1928, with Jean Tedesco). These early films display Hessling's expressionist performances, in contrast with Renoir's naturalistic use of actors in his later films. Yet Renoir's realism goes hand in hand with the theatrical, most of his films alluding to, or staging, spectacles.

In the early 1930s, Renoir and Hessling divorced. This precipitated Renoir's deliberate attempts to liberate himself from his father's enormous legacy. He began crafting his films with a raw realism, replacing studio interiors with outdoor locations, unpolished but undeniably optimistic. With films such as Boudu, sauvé des eaux / Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), his voice matured, displaying a radical novelty particularly visible in the anarchist attitude of Boudu, whose vagabond's rebellion against society's petty rules upsets even the household of the poor antiquarian who rescued him from drowning. Madame Bovary (1933) and Toni (1935) further highlighted Renoir's sympathy for outcasts and the working class, and his denunciation of the bourgeoisie.

In the mid-1930s, Renoir put his talents to the service of the left-wing Popular Front of France with intelligent, committed films such as Le crime de Monsieur Lange / The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936) and La vie est à nous / The People of France (1936). Renoir did not let politics get in the way when he turned in Partie de campaigne / A Day in the Country in 1936, a miniature masterpiece and the film closest in spirit to his father's paintings. Renoir reached his zenith with the humanistic anti-war epic La grande illusion / The Grand Illusion (1937), which set the standard for all prison camp escape films; and La règle du jeu / The Rules of the Game (1939), a metaphor about class conflict during a weekend hunting party at a stately mansion. The latter, his most personal film, is also his most complex. Regularly voted among the best films ever made, its depiction of amoral, uncaring nobility was packed with subtle, venomous humour and cruelty, yet imbued with a universal sense of humanity. As a whole, Renoir's films of the 1930s are a model for all realist cinema, influencing contemporaries such as William Wyler and Orson Welles, as well as Italy's post-war neorealists such as Luchino Visconti.

At the outbreak of Second World War, Renoir fled to Hollywood with the help of the American father of documentary, Robert Flaherty. His Hollywood films Swamp Water (1941) and The Southerner (1945) were unique in transferring Renoir's realism and attitude to the warm, moist environment of the American Deep South – the United States' most class-stifled region. Most of Renoir's Hollywood output received mixed reception in America. Darryl Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century-Fox, summed up Renoir's Hollywood career thus: "Renoir has plenty of talent, but he's not one of us."

Renoir headed to India to realise The River, based on Rumer Godden's eponymous novel. It was Renoir's first colour film, and it reunited him with his cameraman nephew, Claude Renoir Jr. This meditative account of childhood, shot on location in Bengal, suggests a new spiritual or religious dimension in Renoir's work. Released in 1951, it was the first of several colour films of great beauty, with Renoir becoming one of the pioneers of the use of Technicolour in French feature production.

After completing his second colour film, Le carrosse d'or / The Golden Coach (1953) in Italy, Renoir made a triumphant return to French cinema with French Can Can (1954). The popularity and success of the film quickly reinstated him to the French canon. On the cusp of the rejuvenation of the French cinema in the late fifties, Renoir was considered a role model by the proponents of the French New Wave. He continued making films in France until the late sixties with works such as Le testament du Docteur Cordelier / The Testament of Doctor Cordelier (1959), Déjeuner sur l'herbe / Lunch on the Grass (1959), and Le Caporal épinglé / The Elusive Corporal (1962). Renoir was awarded an Oscar for life achievement the French legion d'honneur in 1975.

About World Cinema Series

World Cinema Series is a monthly screening of works by the boldest and most inventive auteurs across the world, from renowned classics to neglected masterpieces. Witness the wonders, possibilities, textures as well as the revelatory moments that have contributed to the rich history of cinema. Take a leap of faith and discover the art of cinema that continues to affect and inspire us on the big screen – as it was meant to be seen – with the World Cinema Series, shown every second Tuesday of the month at the National Museum of Singapore.

This quarter, we draw parallels between cinema and works of art that will be exhibited as part of the Dreams & Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musée d'Orsay, Paris exhibition. Just as the impressionists and post-impressionists responded to the onset of modernity in the turn of the century by visually rethinking the world around them, cinema was a newly emerging medium at the time that served as a platform for previously unexplored forms of visual expression. In November, we return to one of the pioneers of cinema and the first cine-magician Georges Méliès, who saw the cinematograph as a new technological medium that enabled crafty excursions into a mythological and subconscious realm. In December, we present the cinematic work of Jean Renoir, who echoed and interpreted the impressionistic aesthetics of his father, the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.