Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Blind Spot: The River (1951)

Renoir's film doesn't match the level of his earlier work.

Directed by Jean Renoir
Produced by Kenneth McEldowney and Jean Renoir
Written by Rumer Godden (from his novel) and Jean Renoir
Starring Patricia Walters, Nora Swinburne and Esmond Knight

Plot Summary: An American soldier’s presence creates havoc in the lives of three girls living in India.

Significance: Regarded as one of the best international films of the 1950’s, Renoir’s lush drama has been championed by such heavyweights as Martin Scorsese, Roger Ebert and Wes Anderson. It was nominated for Best Film and Best British Film at the BAFTAs, as well as the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Thoughts: While the film has developed quite the reputation over the years, it never feels truly alive and vibrant, despite the beautiful lensing by Renoir’s nephew Claude. The film features a lot of voiceover narration, which often lands flat and seems excessive. (I suspect passages of the novel read much better than the narration used in the film.) Much like the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, this film would probably be better without the commentary. Again, it does boast some fine visuals. The film actually feels like a project developed and abandoned by Powell and Pressburger, but it’s an odd, somewhat dull entry in Renoir’s filmography. Though, completists should definitely check it out, and hopefully it will improve for me on another look.

Rating: B-

This is the eighth film in my 2016 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil.

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