The Jean Renoir Collection

Jean Renoir, the son of painter Pierre Auguste, was never one to rest on his laurels. His career spanned from the silent era through to the '60s and took on a variety of genres. Criterion has packaged three of his later films — The Golden Coach, French Cancan and Elena And Her Men — in what some might label the "lighter side of Jean Renoir." All three are stagy (two are actually about show business and acting), comedy of error stories but don't let the elements of farce mislead you; these films are as much about the complexities of human relations as The Rules Of The Game or Grand Illusion. The Golden Coach stars the enigmatic Anna Magnani (she learned English for this role) as a Commedia Dell'Arte actress in Latin America. She is pursued by three men and, much like Powell/Pressburger heroines, must choose between love and art. One woman choosing from three suitors is also a central theme in French Cancan and Elena. Whether it's the founding of the Moulin Rouge or a political bedroom farce starring Ingrid Bergman, Renoir tells the story of strong willed and intelligent women who find their path through trial and error. Despite the elaborate stages and costumes, his strength lies in his characters. As you might expect with Criterion editions, there are plenty of extras; they give plenty and I always want more. Jean Renoir very eloquently explains his art in a number of conversations with Jacques Rivette and in introductions to the films. Historians and directors (Scorsese and Bogdanovich) explain the impact he had on later filmmakers, and a wonderful BBC film documents his later years. While some Renoir films may seem dated, at the time they were considered more modern and technologically advanced than those of his peers. He pushed the medium forward with camera techniques, most notably using three cameras at once, and early Technicolor. He was able to direct natural performances during very staged films by creating an atmosphere where actors were the focal point and had room to experiment. These are all reasons that Renoir should still be studied, enjoyed and, hopefully, imitated. Plus: production stills, essays, more. (Criterion/Morningstar)