Partie de campagne (1936)

I took a few days off from the blog cos there were more pressing matters in the last few days, mostly radio-related but also health-related (namely that migraine which rendered me useless for a good part of yesterday). I was in a filmic mood tonight again, though not really looking for anything heavy, so I thought a 40-minute Jean Renoir film might just do the trick… Of course, a 40-minute film has the same commercial release problems these days as it would’ve done in the 1930s, and so one of the generally acknowledged masterpieces of world cinema hasn’t generally been easy to come by here until Madman issued it. The production was famously troubled, with an eight-day shoot spinning out to eight weeks thanks to the weather and personalities clashing as things dragged on, culminating in Jean Renoir walking off the set before the film was finished to go and make The Lower Depths instead; not until 10 years later would the thing be edited, scored and released without Renoir’s input or indeed consent. Remarkably, the final version bears almost no trace of the behind the scenes strife, though by virtue of how it was eventually released I suppose you could query the extent to which it is really a “Renoir film”. And to be honest I’m not sure that I didn’t find it a little slight, albeit beautifully so. And let’s face it, it’s a short story, not a novel. There are a couple of intertitles at the beginning and near the end which I suppose were meant to cover a couple of scenes not actually shot or something, but I didn’t get a sense of anything missing as such, it feels complete. It’s as long as it really needs to be, and probably wouldn’t stand being much longer; and I gather that, had things gone to plan, it would’ve only been a shortish film anyway. Renoir should probably be commended for realising what he had and for not trying to stretch it beyond its means. It’s a skill quite a few modern filmmakers could do with…


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