For most of our conversation this week, Pat and I find it hard to parse why exactly Elena and Her Men feels more like the 1930's Jean Renoir that we love so much and less like the last two films we watched. Then we suddenly realize that a 1956 film about a popular general who is on the brink of a Republic-destroying coup is intrinsically anti-Charles de Gaulle. It's as political as The Rules of the Game even if the stakes may not seem quite so high to non-French people, and that's the pressure that Renoir needs to push to greatness.
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).