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The French Masters: Jean Renoir

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Good morning, we begin or continue with French masters, and I am going to begin with Jean Renoir.Jean Renoir; we have already refer to Renoir in one of our earlier classes.He was the son of the famous painter Auguste, Pierre Augest renoir. He also has an importantpart in ‘The rules of the game’, that the movie that we are going to discuss todayalong with his other celebrated films. So, Jean Renoir (1894-1979), and he is consideredas one of the most formidable influence on the entire French nouvelle vogue.The movement called the French New Wave. So, he is considered the pioneer in many respects.So, while if someone asks you, what is the place of Renoir in cinema? He influenced avery important, very influential movement called the ‘French New Wave’ then youshould know along with Italian neorealism. Are aware? Are you familiar with the concept Italian neorealism?I keep on referring to these terms on and offAlong with Italian neorealism, French nouvelle vogue is one of the most important influences onAmerican counterculture cinema; so called New Hollywood.So, all the Scorsese's and Coppola's and Brain De Palma's etc.they owe and they are indebted to French nouvelle vogue and Italian neorealism.When you watch their earlier films, you will understand that how important these people were,on their, on entire cinematic movement in new Hollywood. So, Truffaut another importantfilmmaker of the French nouvelle vogue; Francois Truffaut who made films like, ‘400 blows’another important film by Truffaut, I am not going to discuss Truffaut in details becauseI feel many people in our course, they know Truffaut quite well, ‘400 blows’ especially.But any other films by Truffaut that you make recall?Student: Jules and JimGood, Jules and Jim.What did you say Ranjeeth?La Dolce Vita, La Dolce Vita, is an Italian film by?Student: By Fellini.Yes good. So, you talk Truffaut, you shouldtalk about Jules and Jim, day for night, day for night, Bed and Board,400 blows of course.So, Truffaut calls, Renoir’s La Regle du jeu, a movie made in 1939 and we are betterfamiliar with it ‘as ‘the rules of the game’ at the credo of film lovers, the film of films.The most despised on its released and the most valued afterwards’, and wewill see why it was most despised when released in 1939? It usually happens; the certain kindof films which are very despised when they are first released, but later they becamelike classics, people refer to them as text books. Director Robert Altman, does the name ring a bell?Student: MashGood, Mash; not the Alan Alda television series but, the movie Donald Sutherland.So, he is known for Mash, he is also known forMcCabe and Mrs. Miller with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.You must know all these films McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Robert Altman.So, whose Gosford park in 2001 staring Maggi Smith was inspired by Renoir’s classic; once said,‘I learned the rules of the game from ‘the rules of the game’’, so he was that inspiring.Robert Altman is of course, one of the few people who are credited with assuring enoughNew Hollywood in Hollywood in American cinema.So, what are his signature styles, Renoir’s?He is known for his humanism. Poetic realism is his is his style, the way he would shootshis scenes, but one nature, one aspect of his cinema is his humanism, his liberalismwhich is something you would not find very strongly in Godard for example.Godard is very technical, Godard is objective, but Truffaut is not. So, Truffaut was directly influencedby people like Renior, and renoir is known for his humanity, his humanism and in depthevacuations of milieu subtle realism. As we have just watched in depth evacuation of milieu;he would understand classes, all classes of people extremely well and he had sympathyfor all, never judgmental. We have already discussed that Renoir who was born in 1895;his birth coincides with the birth of cinema itself that is important.So, Renoir’s films, what are they? How can they be classified or categorized? They rangedbetween social realisms and fantasies; of course they are love stories, of course theyare pieces of works of fiction but they are also deeply grounded in social realism.He is called poetic realist, and we were talking about how Satyajit Ray assisted him when hewas visiting India while shooting ‘The River’; Renoirs first film in color.Satyajit Ray gets his style, poetic realism from Renoir and deep concern for the human condition.So, the term Poetic Realism denotes a period between 1933 and 1939,and implies a certain mood, tone and style.The term was coined by literary critic Jean Paulhan,and is use to describe the mix of symbolism and realism, which Jean Paulhan found inthe novels of Marcel Ayme;French novelist.So, what is Renoir credited with?See, today it may not appear, so startling, so innovating but there was a time when shooting on locations,on actual locations and often using non-professional actors was something unheard of, so that iswhat Renoir is credited with. Experimenting with a long take rather than tight close upswhich was very common during those days; because actors use to be so beautiful and the onlyway you can get very close to your favorite star, actor is by looking at his or her,how?Close up, right. So, that was very star driven. Close ups also have an ideology;you use a close up of Cary Grant or you employ a tight close up of someone as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn,and what are you doing; you are bringing the star very close to the audience.So, close up has a politics, has an ideology,in a especially in our cinema, in Indian cinema it is very common.We use close ups for no reason, no particular reason; you must have notice that,there are close ups all over the place because audience wants. It is almost like you canreach out, and you can touch your favorite star. Renoir on the other hand employed longtakes and also started using deep focus compositions. Now what a deep focus compositions?You look at something which is foregrounded,very clearly; you also look at something which is in thebackground which was previously neglected. So, background was neglected, but people likeRenoir use deep focus, so that attention is also given to those things which are present in the background.and who perfected this?Deep focus, who do we associate deep focus with?Not with Renoir. Renoir is known only to film academicians and film students, likeyou guys but this is someone who everyone knows about,Citizen Kane; Orson Welles.He perfected the art of, the technique of deep focus. One of these days we will discussedCitizen Kane also if you wish. So, deep focus compositions credited to Renoir, perfectedby Orson Welles, and of course use of multiple cameras for the first time and color in films.The way he used colors in cinema and multiple cameras, you know generally filmswere shot with one single huge camera; people like Renoir started shooting the films,the same shot using multiple cameras. What effect would do you think that would have let to,multiple cameras, different angles; same scene shots through different perspectives and angles,and what effect, ultimately it would result in?Taking the best shot, best composition;lot of effort for the editors but lot of fun as well. So, films was not, films wereno longer shot with just single camera, but multiple camera, so that multiple angles canbe captured and then the editors would use whatever they thought was best for them.I mean, I had seen rushes of 3 idiots, you know what rushes are? What are rushes?Student: All footage that they shot, but most of the actually does not go into it.Good. Exactly, all the footage that is actually shot, but does not necessarily go in the actual movie,the way we see or watch it. Actually, Srikanth Prashanth was with us and he showedus the footage of Kaminey which he edited. So, at FTII we were shown a footage of 3 idiots,and you remember the scene where Aamir sits in a class for the first time and he is veryexcited thus to be in an engineering college and then he is asked to define, what is machine?And that scene we were made to watch through multiple perspectives.So, there is a shot when the focus is only on Chatur, there is at scene where the focus is only on Madhavan,and then completely through the professor’s point of view. And in the final analysis we were taught,that they useed the combination of all perspective. So, it was not just focusingon Aamir or Madhavan or Chatur, so they must have done lot of editing there.So, that is what I was talking about. We have already, we have already seenhis major films; La Cite,Boudu saved from drowning,a day in the country,the crime of Monsieur Lange, La vie est a nous.And very popular, La Bete humaine; based on anovel by Emile Zola, Emile Zola one of the pioneer of the naturalism theory.Jean Gabin was a frequent collaborator; it was the kind of actor-director partnership that later youwill witness in people like De Niro and Martin Scorsese or DeCaprio and Martin Scorsese now.So, it is that a kind of combination, so Jean Gabin was a favorite of Renoir.They often work together; and also Truffaut and his actors, the child actor and the child actor when startedgrowing up Truffaut was or would invariably caste him in all his film.So, Jean Gabin and Simone Simon in ‘La Bete humaine’.Has any one seen a movie called,I am talking about the first version not the remade version; The Postman Always Rings Twice.Are you familiar with it? Heard of it?Student: Is it Jack Nicholson’s?No, no I am talking about John Garfield and Lana Turner.So, The Postman Always Rings Twice is based on whose novel?I will give you another clue; definitely literature is not a very strong point here, I will giveyou another clue, this author is known for his noir works, I would not insult your intelligencein explain to you, what is noir! You know what is noir, right? But this particular novelistwas associated with the genre of noir, he wrote the post man rings the bell twice,he also wrote Mildred Pierce; first made with Joan Crawford and now of course with KateWinslet that is a mini-series, but there was an Oscar winning movie Mildred Pierce.Who wrote it?Familiar with Mildred Pierce? Watched the movie, at least Winslet’s version?Please watch it; very entertaining, very pulpy novels James M Cain is the novelist we are talking about.So, La Bete humaine although based on a novel by Emile Zola, and if you watch the movie,you will feel that it must how it must have influenced John Garfield’sversion of ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’. Again it is about an adulterous relationship;between it is about an adulterous relationship between a married woman and her lover who is an engineer,a rail road engineer and her husband. And she wants her lover to kill her husband,in The Postman Always Rings Twice; they do kill the husband right.In La Bete humaine the lover refuses to do so.So, the woman, she is quite of farm fatal you know the qualitiesof farm fatal; and she detaches, she distances herself from her lover. She says, if you cannotkill my husband I do not want anything to do with you. He is heartbroken, he is trulya jilted mad in love kind of a lover, and he seeks revenge. There is a scene somewherein the middle of the movie where these lover dance to a particular romantic song at the rail roads,it is a very famous song, French song. Now, after being jilted by the woman,the lover goes back to her house and strangles her to death; and again we hear the same songplaying in the background. Now this was something like, now perhaps it not very uncommon today,to have something, you know someone the other day was mentioning how Kamal Hasan uses animationsin Aalavanthan while shooting very grouse man, a serial killer but then there is verycomic effect brought in right. So, it breaks a kind of traditional narrative.When you include animation to portrait serial killing and you are going away, breaking away fromthe traditional narrative; here too using a romantic song while a murder is in progresswas highly innovative during those times. So, Renoir is credited with similar innovativetechniques, similar very experimental kind of narrative which may not see very unusualtoday but they were innovative those days. He does not evoke any feelings of sympathyor pity for the lead character; the song which is a classic, to which once they had oncedance and now he kills her to the background of the same song, it evokes the feeling of nostalgia,it does not evoke pity.So, Renoir’s sympathy for ordinary people, however flowedis most evident in two of his master pieces apart from La Bete humaine. One is Grand Illusion(La Grande illusion) and The Rules of the Game. In the thirties, Renoir formed a company;a film company called le Nouvell a Desieo France,and when he formed the company, heannounced that his next film would be an exact description of the French middle class.One of the characters; you just watched in a clipping from The Rules of the Game played is by Renoir himself,he plays the role of, he plays the part of octave and that is Renoir himself.And there is a famous line which he mounts, ‘the terrible thing about this world isthat, everyone has its reasons, has his reasons’. So, the terrible thing about this world is that,everyone has his reasons;it could be her reasons also, there are no disputes about that, his reasons, her reasons.What does it mean?Everyone has their reasons,it is a terrible thing, and what does it mean?Think of Renoir’s other characteristic features,we have been talking about his social realism, his humanism; does it say something about that?Yes, tell me. Student: coming to everyone, I mean everyonehas some reason of doing something. So, there is a reason. What kind of film makerdoes he merge then?Liberal? Yes. So, his liberalism comes across and it is very ironic,very telling that the person who mounts these lines happens to be Renoir himself.Everyone seems so, it is a murder but it is a murder for love, as in La Bete humaine.If someone is greedy, then they must be having their reasons, so sympathy for everyone, understandingof every class; no judgement, no looking down on people that is a hallmark feature of Renoir.Can you think, can you draw parallels between Renoir and some of our own cinema?I mean one my colleague the other day, he was just making a point that our cinema is extremelyjudgemental, our film makers always going through the preaching part of it whereas a more internationalcinema, they just show but they do not go into extensive explanation of things,do you agree?We do have a sense that our film makers take a moral stand and there is too much ofpreaching and judgements, do we agree to that? To a large extend they do that, name them?Student: I think the Gangs of Wasseypur, how they present the different characters.Yes, but when was ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ made? In 2012. We are talking about someonewho was making films in 1930s. So, gives a lot of food of thought.So, ‘The rules of the game’ was based on a short story by Alfred de Musset, and it is a cautionary tale;it is a humanistic tale of course, but it is also a warning about the frivolity of theideal rich at a time when France was on the verge of war, the second world war 1939.So, the movie is now analyzed as Renoir’s take on the self-absorb class, at the same timeit indicates his liberalism and his humanism as well because everyone has their reasons.When the film was first released, people protested outside the theatres because of the ideology,because of the way he made his social observations; that people are essentially self-absorb, selfish.And people did not like, the ordinary the audience, they did not like this kind of philosophy.What do they want?Feel good cinema, as always. If you shows too much of stack reality, people do not like it.So, they were protest outside the theatres and it was banned in France forvery long time, for being very demoralizing; broke their hearts to see the reality on screen,after all you have Renoir showing that, the mistress of the house is having an affairand the maid is no different. And then how the mistress’s lover is killed in an accidentby the mistresses’ husband; the man who is the aviator, who proclaims his love for the lady.And internationally, it has influenced several films,if you remember ‘The great escape’, the tunnel digging scene and the singing ofMarcel in Casablanca to infuriate the Germans; so both are you know homages to Renoir.Renoir wrote his autobiography; ‘My life and my films’,where discussing his techniques and his believe he say,‘I got nearer and nearer to the ideal method of directingwhich consist of shooting a film as one writes a novel, the elements by which the author issurrounded inspires him, he absorb them’. So, a writer in other words or a filmmakerin other word derives from what he is surrounded with, so therefore when we talk about Renoir’s realism;we are talking about how he was inspired by locations, people, and incidence around him.He also saysin the cinema autobiography, 'An artist only exists, if he succeeds in inventing his own little world’.And that is true of most artists; they find their exclusivenessand they stick to it, so, their own little world.We were just referring to Renoir’s partnership actor Jean Gabin, and Jean Gabin appearedin three of Renoir’s classics; Les Bas-fonds, La Grande illusion and La Bete humaine.And then he also wrote, his father’s biography; ‘Renoir: my father’ based on the lifeof his father, Pierre-August Renoir. As homework, please try to watch ‘The rules of the game’if possible, and if that is not possible then try to read as much as possible on‘The rules of the game’ as well as La Bete humaine and La Grande illusion, his three master pieces.They are all very entertaining; you would not find it very difficult to sit through them.And one of his later films before The River was French Cancan which is an act ofhomage to the show business. So, is based on the lives of people in show business, French Cancan.So, I will proceed if you do not have any questions on Renoir.And then because Renoir is; we were just talking about he was the first to employ non-professional actor.Now what is the meaning of non-professional actors? People who are unprofessional, behave badly?Student: UntrainedExactly, who have never done any formal training in acting and also who are not much exposeto acting, who have not acted before. So, employment of non-professional actors; thisis another feature which the New Hollywood borrowed extensively from the French new wave.So, Renoir of course was the pioneer, and then people like Truffaut and Godard tookit to another level; of course we also know famously, the actor who played the lead rolein ‘The bicycle thieves’, De Sica’s the bicycle thieves. He was also a non-professional actor.And in William Friedkin’s, does he mean anything to you?Student: The exorcist.Good, the exorcist. He employed a real priestwho was the non-professional actor, not the main role, but one of the supporting roles,for one of a key role.So, French Nouvelle Vague and when we talk about French new wave,we should also be familiar with the auteur theory. An auteur theory you will understandmuch better, if you read Andre Bazin’s theory, ‘what is cinema?’One of these days when we start discussing the theory part of this course more,when you have to make your presentations;perhaps some of you can opt for, discuss for a discussion of what is cinema.And directors; as we were talking about when we started this course,the directors were considered as author, an auteurs.So, let me go back again to one of our earlier classes, what is an auteur according to the new wave cinema?Who according to you could be an auteur?Please focus on them.Student: The directors whose films can be read like a text.Elaborate?To become an auteur, what are the things that people should do?Student: He or she has a signature style or something which can be seen in all his or her works.Ok, that comes later. A signature theme,a signature style Hitchcock had a signature style, right. So, when French new wave peoplestarted developing this particular so called, auteur theory; much debated, much de-bung theory,you do not have to take any theory on its face value every theory is contested.So when people, when French theorists started discussing auteur theory,who did they take in consideration?Not their own people, but Hollywood directors.And who were the Hollywood directors who most influence them?Please, louder.Student: Orson Welles.Okay, Orson Welles is a text book for everyone;Citizen Kane, a 1940 movie. John Ford, the man who made all those great western with John Wayne.Who else? Hitchcock, Hitchcock was an auteur for the French new wave theoristsand film-makers, so Hitchcock was important. And also Howard Hawks, Howard Hawks;some of you may not be aware of Howard Hawks, but was one of the greatest ever.Can you mention some of his film?Student: ScarfaceYes, Scarface 1932, Paul Muni starring; Al Pacino’s version came much later, but theoriginal Scarface by Howard Hawks. What else?Since, our friend just said that an auteur should have a signature style.So, what are the movies did Howard Hawks make?Bringing up baby with Cary Grant, ‘His girl Friday’ again with Cary Grant, Rio Bravo with John Wayne;none of these films have the same theme. One is an action movie, the other is a westernand there are several romantic comedies, still Howard Hawks was considered an auteur becausehe had a certain style. So, auteurs were not considered auteur only because they had acertain thematic thread running through their oeuvre.They were also considered important because they had a certain degree of control over their materials.So, it was not, it is a very simplistic way of saying that auteur would always use the same actors;auteur would always use the same technicians, the music director, the cinematographerthat is there but that is not the main thing. Auteur‘s the most important feature was that the auteurworks supposedly in complete control of their product. And what is the product; cinema, their film.And what could be better, what could be having better control over theirproduct than writing their own scripts, so that was very important. They wanted complete controlover writing their script, dialogues, screenplays although it was normally done in collaborationwith someone because one man cannot do everything by himself, but they would like to have controlover the way the film was written. So, it was not as if anyone can give them a boundscript and then ask them to write to make a movie out of it, it was not done that way.They had complete control over the other aspects of film making.So, that is auteurism.Some of the best known film; ‘400 blows’ by Truffaut, ‘Breathless’ by Godard,‘Band apart’ again by Godard and several others. So, the auteur theory was developed by Andre Bazin,a very important film critic and his disciples. Now, disciples also happen to befilm critics and then they decided that if we criticizes so many movies, and if we areso unhappy with the way the films are made then why do not we make our own film, ourown kind of; which was like a breath of fresh air for French cinema which was almost dying at that point.So, some important names along with Andre Bazin; Truffaut, Godard Resnais;Resnais made a classic called Hiroshima my love (mon amour), and Last Year At Marienbadthat is, when we talk about repetition and in narratives and we will be discussing lastyear at Marienbad. Did I ever discuss that film with you, with your group?Perhaps, I did in one of my earlier classes. So, Resnais' Last Year At Marienbad is an important movieby way of its narrative, telling the same incident over and again which was later done to perfection in?Student: ‘Vantage point’.Good, ‘Vantage point’, but there is another classic.Student: Rashomon? Rashomon is yes a multiple perspectives, yes, good.So, Rashomon, what else did you mention? Students: Vantage point,Vantage point, yes; in-between there was something, Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. Those are film that you should;we will be discussing when we talk about narrative and repetitions.So, Resnais’ Last Year At Marienbad, tell me, any comment here?Student: Christopher said parts of Inception were influenced by Last year at Marienbad.Of course, it is a very dark edgy movie. Although Nolan’s movies are a thriller, it has action,it has greatest special effects. Last Year at Marienbad is an out and out love storybased on a novel, again nouvelle roma; the new kind of novel.And Claude Chabrol,Rohmer and Louis Malle.So, these were a people who are assured in the era of French new wave.And as we were just talking about the manifesto was; the director was the real author of afilm and not the studio. So, it was in other words a revolt against the entire studio systemwhich is something you will find which something happen in the 60s in Hollywood with Bonnie and Clyde.Bonnie and Clyde and the subsequent next 10 years, they were so called ‘New Hollywood’,and when you have films like William Friedkin’s ‘The Exorcist’but is more conventional. Before The Exorcist there was a French Connection which got himthe Oscar, wonderful movie.So, the author or the director is the star of the filmthat was the idea, not the actors therefore insistence on having non-professional actors.In Hollywood there was a director, made three great movies. I will ask you his name andhe was very insistent, he is also a great film critic, but that is another thing.He made three movies which were all classics and after that there was a constant downhill, down fall.And he insisted that film, that the director is the real star; the hero of the film.And he would very consciously take only those peoples; insist on having onlythose stars who were by and large very uncharismatic because he did not want anyone toover shadow his powers.I will give you the titles of this his films if I can remember all, most of themand then you have to give me the name. He made ‘The last picture show’,Student: Cybill ShepherdYes, Cybill Shepherd. Then he made ‘Paper Moon’with Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum, and then in between he made ‘What’s Up Doc’ Babra Streisand.Three super successful and critically acclaim movies, and then itall went to his head and then there was a constant downfall; Peter Bogdanovich,so director being that the, insisting that the director should be the star,Peter Bogdanovich.Similar thing happen to Paul Schrader also. Paul Schrader the screen writer for?Student: Taxi DriverGood, Taxi driver. And also the director for?Well, do your homework Paul Schrader; what did he do, what is his contribution?Because, again like Bogdanovich he could not sustain his success, again like William Friedkin whomade The French connection got an Oscar then followed it up with a very successful ‘The Exorcist’,but could not follow and after that they were nothing. So, pit falls of the auteurs,when directors’ start asserting too much control over their product; it isall very good on paper but there were pit falls as well which was very evident especiallyin a New Hollywood cinema, they all started with a bang.This was the journal of films Cahier du cinema, I keep talking about this but just to repeat,just to refresh; launch in a 1950s and it was a journal of French films, very respectable journal.The policy was put in to practice by the film makers of the French new wave of the 60s.The idea was to go against the studio system and big budget films.The idea was not to rely on big stars,and the idea was not to follow the genre conventions.We know what are what are genres, do we know what are genres?Student: Category. Categories, so that is a very simple definition of genre.So, Scarface is a gangster genre, but genres are also much debated, contested,categories because now we talk about genre blending and genre blending.So, if you want to read a very scholarly book on genres, you must read a work called‘Film Genre’, it is by Rick Altman. Rick Altman’s Film Genre.And one characteristic feature of theauteur theory was that, the style becomes independent of the story; the style was extremelyimportant, remember Bonnie and Clyde? You must watch Bonnie and Clyde, and then understandhow important the style was, after all it is just a gangster film and it combines featuresof love story as well. But then it was the style of the movie in which it was shot, that became important.So, when Ranjith tells you auteur theory is based on a signature style;actually is the way you shoot the movie, the way you present the movie.Some directors were known for shooting the film in natural lights,for example if you watch a movie likeMcCabe & Mrs.Miller, Warren Beatty’s film which was shot out and out in Vancouver,and directed by Robert Altman. Robert Altman insisted those days, in the early seventies that he is notgoing to do any dubbing for the film, everything has to be in sink. Now, what happens whenyou are, when everything is in sink and when you are shooting in cold, extremely cold claimsof Vancouver in Canada, wind blowing throughout, what happens to the sound?Student: Muffled sound.Muffled sound, and even today even with therestored version McCabe & Mrs.Mille have a very odd sound to it. They all liked it whenthe first made it because they thought that they are auteurs; you see complete control of the,this is the way he want the movie. But the audiences were so put off no one neverbother to watch the movie, although it is now considered a classic.It is a cult movie, it had recovered its cost because it was so appreciated for its style, but then it didnot make any money for the producers. So, auteur theory and its pit falls.So, coming back to what Cahier du cinema told us; for an auteur film there is no pre- existing story,the writer, the director has complete control over the material and they believed in improvisation.So, if the directors not happy with the way the sun i