Jean Renoir Brenda Davies - Essay

Brenda Davies

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[La Marseillaise] is an optimistic film, full of hope and the joy of creation. It glows with summer sunshine as the amateur soldiers tramp the long leafy road from Marseilles to Paris, arguing, laughing and occasionally bursting into that stirring song of theirs. But it is not all revolutionary fervour and high spirits. Renoir is very conscious that the trivialities of daily life do not disappear under the stress of cataclysmic events….

For Renoir there are no villains—only stupidity and misunderstanding. There are chilling moments though, when the tragedy waiting in the wings is allowed to throw its long shadow….

Technically Renoir is unobtrusive as always. It is all very simply done—or so it seems—and he handles great crowds with the same ease that he brings to intimate scenes, always choosing the most direct way of expressing his ideas without any loss of depth or subtlety. (p. 41)

In any Renoir work it is the people one remembers best, but La Marseillaise, with its balance between historical perspective and human values, has a sweep and a fervour that both includes and transcends the protagonists. It has nothing to do with patriotism and is as stirring to Anglo-Saxon blood as it is to the French. (p. 42)

Brenda Davies, "'La Marseillaise'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1968 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 37, No. 1, Winter, 1967–68, pp. 41-2.