Jean Renoir: Silents

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Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Aug 22, 2007 6:36 am

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Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:24 pm

WHIRLPOOL OF FATE (France / 1925)



In 2005, Whirlpool of Fate (La Fille de l'eau) -- Jean Renoirs first solo directorial effort (besides being involved as a producer, actor and screenwriter in the earlier Une vie sans joie [1924], Renoir also reportedly "interfered" with director Albert Dieudonn) -- was "restored by the French Film Library and Canal Studio from a 35mm copy on safety base film. This constituent established by Henri Langlois, had English subtitles; the original French subtitles could not be recovered. Therefore, the restoration consisted of translating and adapting the English text in order to create new subtitles, and then digitizing the copy to produce the image." (Rather ironic -- and, Im sure, frustrating for some Renoirphiles -- because, until recently, the DVD editions of the film only featured French intertitles.)

Foretellingly so, as far as one of the key motifs of the masters oeuvre is considered, Whirlpool of Fate begins with the shot of a body of water -- a canal, in which we witness a ferry gradually moving towards us. After introducing the protagonist, Gudule (Catherine Hessling, Renoirs wife and collaborator until 1930), the film takes us atop the vessel where we find Gudules father and her boorish uncle (Pierre Lestringuez, who wrote the screenplays for a number of Renoirs early films). It isnt long that the now-orphaned Gudule is seen on the run after her foolishly extravagant uncle tries to take advantage of her. Consisting of more sudden twists than a Mexican telenovela, the poor young girl's dramatic life reaches a nadir one rainy evening in the forest, but shes rescued by the well-meaning, and long-admiring, son of a local landlord. Will Gudule now live happily ever after?

Whirlpool of Fate contains a couple of key instances in which Renoirs early experimental tendencies come to fruition. One is the aforementioned attempted rape scene where the image of the highly intoxicated uncle is distorted via a variety of negative-related effects; and the illusory result is heightened and punctuated by the use of rapid montage. Even more important is the metaphysical, and surreal, dream sequence (which is similar to that of Renoirs latter The Little Match Girl [1928]). Here, the filmmaker practically unleashes all the available components of his formal and stylistic apparatus: variable frame rates, superimposition, multiple exposures, acute angles, intense contrasts of light, etc.

Having said that, and while Renoir also manages to coax some poetry out of the thoroughly natural settings, this 72-minute silent -- considerably longer than Match Girl and the subversively experimental (or experimentally subversive) Charleston Parade (1927), but shorter than Nana (1926), arguably the best of Renoir's silents -- isn't as accomplished as some of the other films of the time-period.
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Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:31 pm

DVD info is available here. Whirlpool of Fate is featured on Disc 1 alongside Nana. This set is one of the best bargains of the year.
arsaib4
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby A » Sun Aug 26, 2007 10:28 pm

I still have fond memories of watching this film at the BFI in London in 2002. I believe it was my first Renoir, and though I was a bit bored by the meandering storyline I still remember being impressed with some "naturalist" sequences (as well as the excellent improvised live piano music ). The beginning of the film with the ferry and the river is still etched intro my memory. What a beautiful sequence. When I saw Grmillon's Maldone (1927) I was reminded of moments like this.
If I remember correctly, this film was more of an excuse to film his wife rather than telling any coherent story
I would love to see it again, even though it does seem to be a minor film.

Thanks for the link. I had completely forgotten about this set!
Right now I'm trying to order it from Amazon.com
A
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby A » Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:28 pm

Unfortunately I don't have a credit card anymore, so can't order from Amazon. Anyone know any other options?
A
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Aug 27, 2007 2:16 am

That means that you probably don't have a PayPal account either. It will be difficult ordering from overseas without a CC. You could try deepdiscount.com to see if they offer another option. But isn't there a retailer in Germany, online or otherwise, which offers import DVDs?
arsaib4
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Aug 27, 2007 9:22 pm

xploitedcinema.com also accepts payments via personal check and money order, and they have the set ($24.95).
arsaib4
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Sep 05, 2007 5:42 am

NANA (France-Ger / 1926)



Influenced by the work of Erich von Stroheim (Foolish Wives [1922], in particular), Nana, perhaps the most engaging and technically sound of Jean Renoirs silents, is based on mile Zola's classic 1880 novel of the same name. Unlike Whirlpool of Fate (1925), which Renoir shot on-location in the countryside, Nana primarily unfolds on artfully and lavishly designed sets, the first of which in seen in the films opening moments as the titular stage actress (Catherine Hessling) with no singing or acting talent wins over the audience, bourgeois men in particular, with her calculatingly voluptuous performance. She soon manages to become the toast of Paris, but a minor scandal breaks out in the theatrical community. In order to keep her highly envious standing, Nana persuades the most influential of her bevy of admirers, Count Muffat (Werner Krauss, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [1920]; Nana was mostly shot in Berlin due to financial reasons), to have her cast in the troupes follow-up play. While she succeeds in her goal, the play turns out to be a disaster, relegating her to a role which perhaps suited her all along, that of a courtesan. Even though Renoir has marked Nana, which he primarily self-financed, as the true beginning of his career, it was a commercial failure, and caused the French master to sell off some of the work of his leading impressionist painter father, Pierre-Auguste. At 130 minutes the film feels a tad long, especially with the ever-grating Hessling who is unable to humanize the character at significant moments, but it does manage to provide a key early look at a couple of Renoir's thematic and formal concerns. Nana's beautifully tinted print was preserved earlier this decade by the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna and the Cinmathque Suisse, Lausanne.
arsaib4
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby A » Sun Sep 09, 2007 1:52 pm

Thanks for the help. I managed to order the set via Paypal on YesAsia.
Looking forward to the films (though I don't know when I'll have time to watch any of them ). On a side note, a cinema in Stuttgart is showing renoir's Toni (1934) as a subtitled print in early October. I'll definitely try to see that
A
 

Re: Jean Renoir: Silents

Postby wpqx » Mon Oct 01, 2007 4:11 pm

Began Renoir on my director list, so naturally started with Whirlpool of Fate. Agreed for the most part with arsaib's comments. Melodramatic to a slightly embarrassing extent but with a few trademark impressionist moments that made the picture worthwhile. Stylistically it is radically separated from the films Renoir would earn his reputation on in the 30's, but well worth a watch, especially considering how little we get to see from 1920's French cinema.
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