~Downstairs at the Savoy~
6:30 & 8:45 each evening
1:30 & 4:00 matinees Sat & Sun
Rated R; 113 minutes
In French w/subtitles
Kyle Smith, New York Post (excerpted)
In the summer of 1915, painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (a fearsome Michel Bouquet) is 74 and fighting off the corrosion of age in the South of France when his son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) returns home from the war with an injury — and announces he intends to return to the front as soon as he is able.
A model (Christa Théret) who has fallen under the father’s spell becomes Jean’s lover and urges him to forget the war and stay home. The old man is simply disgusted at what he sees as his son’s absurd belief that the flag matters more than art.
Without showing any war images, Renoir is a quietly profound statement about the folly of WWI and France’s place in it. That this land of dreamers thought it could compete with the cold German war machine (and made a catastrophically unwise pact to join Russia in the event of conflict) is one of history’s great blunders.
Jean Renoir survived to become one of another of France’s great artists, making rueful anti-war films like The Grand Illusion. Perhaps this coda vindicated the elder Renoir’s belief that art is everything. Or was Jean Renoir’s hard-earned acquaintance with horror a necessary stage in the development of work of greater depth and power than his father’s?