“Flesh!” shouts Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at his son, Jean (Vincent Rottiers). “That’s all that matters! If you don’t understand that, you’ll never understand anything in life or painting.”
Renoir director and co-writer Gilles Bourdos has taken a cue from his Impressionist master subject. Renoir never gets beyond the flesh and below the surface to show us what makes these people tick.
It’s 1915, and France is struggling through World War I. In the Cote d’Azur, life is still idyllic, and Renoir, 74, paints with a new model, 15-year-old Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret). She polarizes the house staff and she captures the elder Renoir’s heart, as well as Jean’s.
What these men see in Andrée is a mystery. She’s temperamental, angry, and a brat—a typical 15-year-old. But she encourages Jean to move toward filmmaking as he convalesces from a serious injury sustained in battle.
Director of photography Mark Ping Bing Lee’s images are saturated in summer golds and shimmering light, and it’s a good thing Renoir is so beautiful; the Renoir family is so repressed it barely elicits an emotion. Bouquet is wonderful, but for a moving experience featuring a Renoir, try a museum or Grand Illusion.
Directed by Gilles Bourdos
With Michel Bouquet, Vincent Rottiers and Christa Théret