In Renoir, directed by Gilles Bourdos, we see the Impressionist artist as an infirm old man in his 70s – still painting in his twilight years, but whose hands are nearly crippled and whose crumbling body is all but affixed to his wheelchair.
What Pierre-August Renoir (Michel Bouquet) has not lost in this setting – the French Riviera in 1915 – is his predilection for “the velvety texture of a young girl’s skin” that “soaks up the light.” His previous muse, who posed for him for more than a dozen years, was sent away by the wife. But, voila, he now has a replacement – fiery red-head Andrée (Christa Théret), and she’ll do just fine.
In the end, Renoir is an incisive study about the artistic temperament. Even as WWI rages, all the self-centered Renoir seems to care about is his daily shot of paint and canvas that’s his conduit to the feminine. “Flesh is all that matters!” he says. Andrée also fancies herself an artist and knows her value as his muse. She acts, performs and has more than a touch of the diva about her, especially when she expects to be waited on by Renoir’s adoring and loyal female household staff. Like her “Boss,” as he’s called, she’s a rebellious free spirit who follows her creative whimsy. When she doesn’t show up one day, Renoir asks someone to go to her house to fetch her, but no one knows where she lives.
The movie is a strong reminder that artists inhabit another realm, both literally and figuratively. And that includes progeny – also complicating matters is Renoir père’s soldier son, the future film luminary Jean (Vincent Rottiers) of Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game, who’s back with papa to convalesce from an injury – who also falls for Andrée.
It’s a marriage made in painterly heaven where the female form rules.
Astrology Film Rating: ♀ (Venus)