In the French film “Renoir,” actress Christa Theret frequently appears naked, but it isn’t the ooo, ooo, they showed her naked approach all too often employed in movies. Art is about the light. Life is about the light.
Renowned painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir says in the film, “Her skin drinks-in the light.” This appreciation flows throughout this leisurely story. That includes pastoral landscapes and that includes naked. Theret serves the story well, playing Andrée Heuschling, the artist’s model and muse during the last few years of Renoir’s life.
Writer and director Gilles Bourdos purposely puts Andrée front and center. Around her he applies Pierre-Auguste, so crippled with arthritis that paintbrushes had to be placed in his hand. He had to be carried to the field and creek settings where he continued his job-like passion to produce art.
Bourdos weaves in Jean Renoir, the second-born son, home from World War I, recovering from a bullet to the leg. Jean’s relationship with Andrée assures that the title of the film encompasses both father and son. Jean (after the timeframe of this film) became a much respected filmmaker, with Andrée as his initial muse, first wife and leading lady.
“Leisurely” is an interesting word. Pierre-Auguste produced thousands of paintings, hardly an unoccupied or undemanding life. Pierre-Auguste often depicted leisurely activity. However, his work hardly lacked vitality nor was it ignorant of the real world around it. Jean Renoir, no stranger to the leisure that his father’s success afforded him or to the idylls of Andrée’s company, hankered to return to war. Even the tension dotted through Bourdos’s film has a leisurely confidence.
If you are the type who goes to a museum and essentially just keeps on walking, keeps on walking, this film may not be enough for you. If, when you come across a Renoir painting, you linger several minutes drinking in what he makes of light and life, then “Renoir” will serve you well. Bourdos’s vision maps well to Renoir’s.