We return to Jean Renoir as the artist returns to France for the first time in over a decade after a stint in Hollywood and what may possibly be considered an exile. To mark his return he makes a rather ridiculously French film. 1954's French Cancan is a fake history of the Moulin Rouge cabaret, but is most notable for it's visuals, which make frequent frame-reference to the works of Jean's father Auguste Renoir and the elder's Impressionist peers. Mostly that translates to frequent naked women in the background.
Jean Renoir's character in his brilliant The Rules of the Game says, "You have to understand, its the plight of all heroes today. In the air, they're terrific. But when they come back to earth, they're weak, poor, and helpless"
Without the pressure of an imminent World War his films just don't have the drive I've come to expect from him. Without that urgency, Renoir losses what I love about his art.
But that's probably my problem, not his. In any case the films aren't bad, they're just different.
We kick off a trio of his late-period works this week with The Golden Coach (1953), first in a boxset Criterion calls Stage and Spectacle as they're also all about performance and theater (and love triangles).
The first film in Yasujiro Ozu's Noriko trilogy, Late Spring, is still about a two years in Lost in Criterion's future. Sometimes the Collection gives us trilogies as box sets, sometimes just grouped together anyway, and, apparently, sometimes in reverse order over the course of three years. Each film stars Setsuko Hara as a 28 year old named Noriko and fills in her varying familial and social circles with many of the same actors but tell distinct stories. We first met Noriko late last year when we saw the final film in the series Tokyo Story.
Tokyo Story is brilliant in it's own right, but at least until we finish things up Early Summer (1951) is my favorite. Check it out on this week's Lost in Criterion on iTunes or LostInCriterion.com. And, if you could, like us on Facebook or support us on Patreon.
This week we put the Sullivan's Travels hypothesis to the test with two adaptations of the same play. Akira Kurosawa sticks close to the Maxim Gorky-play source with his 1957 adaptation of the 1902 play about rundown people in a rundown flophouse. Whereas in 1936 Jean Renoir turned the story into an escapist romantic comedy. The two great directors even have their respective best actors (Toshiro Mifune and Jean Gabin) starring as the same character for maximum comparison.
Reportedly, Gorky loved Renoir's script. Reportedly, Renoir recognized Kurosawa's film as much better than his own.
The best part of A Woman is a Woman is a magical clothes changing machine. Just walk through and your costume is different. It's a great bit in a film full of great moments. Jean-Luc Godard's 1961 film is his first in color, which is less impressive when you realize it's only his third film altogether. Godard calls it a neo-realist musical, which he acknowledges himself is an impossible combination.
Listen to this week's episode of Lost in Criterion "A Woman is a Woman" on iTunes or LostInCriterion.com. And, if you could, like us on Facebook or support us on Patreon.