57. Jean Renoir
THE RULES OF THE GAME, GRAND ILLUSION, THE CRIME OF MONSIEUR LANGE
Jean Renoir once said, “My dream is of a craftsman’s cinema in which the author can express himself as directly as the painter in his paintings or the writer in his books, ” a fitting quote from the son of legendary impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. With thoughts of becoming a writer, he turned to cinema during World War I, when a bullet wound left him with a permanent limp and enough time to be inspired by the films of Charlie Chaplin and Erich von Stroheim (whom he would later cast as an actor). He began a rather unsuccessful career making silent films that was partly financed by sales of his father’s paintings, but with the talkies, Renoir began making his most famous and influential movies; Grand Illusion, Rules of the Game, La Chienne (The Bitch), The Lower Depths and The Human Beast. These were films largely concerned with left leaning French politics, moral ambiguity, and the impending dissolution of the European aristocracy. He was a thinker who did what he could to let each of his films have a certain classical poetry, and this all lead him being a leading influence on French New Wave cinema. Of course it’s also hard to discount the importance of any director whom Nazi Joseph Goebbels declared “Cinematic Public Enemy No. 1,” and subsequently ordered prints of Grand Illusion to be destroyed. On the more positive side of things, Orson Welles also named Grand Illusion as one of the world’s greatest films, it was the first foreign language film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and it was the inaugural DVD that launched the Criterion Collection.
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