Renoir

““I refuse to paint the world black,” declares Pierre-Auguste Renoir (the great French actor Michel Bouquet) in RENOIR, Gilles Bourdos’s compassionate late-life portrait of this French Impressionist painter, infirm with rheumatoid arthritis. “A painting should be something pleasant and cheerful,” he adds. “There are enough disagreeable things in life. I don’t need to paint more.” It is the summer of 1915 and Renoir, 74, has just lost his beloved wife, Aline. He will die four years later. The great man, now rich and famous, is slavishly attended by a retinue of female servants, several of whom are former artist’s models, at his farm, Les Collettes, at Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Cote d’Azur. World War I rages to the north…. Despite laboring in excruciating pain, which requires his hand to be tied to his paintbrush, Renoir remains obsessed with the way “the velvety texture of a young girl’s skin” absorbs the light. He experiences a surge of vitality when he meets the 15-year-old Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret), a k a Dedee, a voluptuous, mouthy, high-strung redhead recommended as a model by Henri Matisse….While watching the movie, exquisitely photographed by the Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Ping Bing Lee (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE), you may surrender to that unabashedly sensual vision, celebrated in every shot of Les Collettes’ gorgeous, seething landscape of windblown trees, grass and streams that reflect what Renoir calls “the fury running through my nerves.”—Stephen Holden, N.Y. Times. In French with English subtitles. R. 111 Min.

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