La Bête Humaine

Jean Gabin really likes trains. Jean Renoir also really likes trains. They wanted to make a train movie, and any train movie would do. So why not one that also includes murrrrrrrrder?

La Bete Humaine has a lot of bad psychology and therefore some bad social commentary. It also misses a theme from the original novel that it seems like Renoir and Gabin — who had just finished The Grand Illusion — should have leaned into but instead ignored. But it does have trains! Lots and lots of trains!

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Boudu Saved from Drowning

We get one of our earliest Jean Renoir films this week, and it's a treat. Noted for it's encapsulation of Paris between the wars, Boudu Saved from Drowning is a critique of Bourgeois values via rejection. It's also noted for essentially allowing star Michel Simon to play his no-holds-barred libertarian and libertine self. Pat and I have problems with rejecting Bourgeois sensibilities for right wing individualism, but maybe we just have problems with spitting in books.

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The River

Previously on Lost in Criterion:
When Jean Renoir is thinks the world is about to burn we love him. When he's less political, we do not.

On this week's episode:
The River finds Renoir making his first color film which is also the first color Technicolor made in India. Made in 1951, just after India's independence, in the Bengal region, and based on the memoirs of Rumer Godden (who also wrote Black Narcissus). While the Archers ultimately seemed to be arguing that India is just too weird for Brits, The River has a little more respect for the population it's movie is ostensibly about. A very little more.

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Elena and Her Men

So producer Louis Wipf says to Jean Renoir, "Hey, Jean Renoir, you wanna make a movie with Ingrid Bergman?"

And Jean Renoir says, "Boy do I!"

Then he sat around for a bit and tried out a few ideas that either he or Wipf or Bergman didn't really like before settling on a fictionalized version of the life of General Georges Boulanger, though not fictionalized enough that Bergman was playing the general.

Anyway, Elena and Her Men (1956) brings the Stage and Spectacle boxset to a close with little stage but a whole lot of spectacle, and is our favorite of the three.

French Cancan

We continue the Stage and Spectacle boxset with 1954's French Cancan wherein Jean Renoir explores the founding of the Moulin Rouge with about as much fidelity to history as Baz Luhrmann. But more interesting than the pseudo-history is the visual panache, with frequent frame references to the works of Renoir's father and his fellow impressionists. Visually stunning to say the least. And perhaps the most.

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The Golden Coach

We've seen three Renoir films so far, and two of them -- The Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game -- are among my absolute favorite films that the Collection has offered us, and the last -- his take on The Lower Depths -- is pretty dang good in its own right.

Now we jump 13 years into his future and find him working in color and out from under the pressures of an impending war (and a bit of an exile to Hollywood) for a trilogy of films dancing around themes of theater and female-empowerment. Well, kind of.

First off from Stage and Spectacle: Three Films by Jean Renoir is 1953's The Golden Coach and boy is it a change from the Renoir we've grown accustomed to.

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The Lower Depths

Two movies for the price of one with this week's outing. In 1902 Maxim Gorky debuted his play The Lower Depths about a group of people living in a flophouse in Russia. It was an international hit of a character study, leading to localizations around the world. In 1957 Akira Kurosawa made a version that was fairly faithful to the source material except transported to 19th century Japan. In 1936 Jean Renoir made it into a romantic comedy.
Reportedly, Gorky actually liked Renoir's version, but even Renoir recognized that Kurosawa made the better adaptation. They're both wonderful movies and are both included in the Criterion Collection's The Lower Depths double disc.

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The Rules of the Game

Jean Renoir made one of the greatest anti-war movies ever with 1937's The Grand Illusion, a war film that is actually an anti-war film designed to showcase that all men are truly brothers, that everyone's essentially the same no matter that country they may hail from. Renoir had seen the writing on the wall and new that war was coming. Having lived through World War I, Renoir was desperate to avoid another one.

War came.

The Rules of the Game (1939) is a second, and much more subtle attempt. After the Munich Agreement found the European powers opting for "peace for our time" and a normalization and appeasement of Hitler's power and land grabs, Renoir knew he had to do more, so he made the greatest anti-war movie of all time and disguised it as a bedroom/upper class farce.

It still didn't work, but goodness is it a valiant attempt.

We recorded this episode November 12, 2016, less than a week after the US election.

We welcome any pushes against normalization and appeasement.

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The Grand Illusion

Welcome to the first episode of Pat and Adam's adventure through the Criterion Collection. This was originally recorded as a test to see what would happen if we tried, so our apologies that this episode is a bit rough. They do get better. They also get shorter. After this test we decided to shoot for 45-60 minutes episodes. This one is a bit over that.

In this episode we discuss Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion, a 1937 French (anti) war film that neither of us had ever heard of let alone seen. That's going to be a common description for many of the movies to come. Listen in to see what we thought, and feel free to comment with thoughts of your own.