Jean Renoir Lauro Venturi - Essay

Lauro Venturi

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Renoir is not a studio hack who turns into images whatever script a producer hands him…. Renoir is a seeker who is not complacent about past achievements, but who regards each new film as a challenge, as an opportunity to make actors project the way Jean Renoir thinks human beings ought to be, in atmospheres congenial to Renoir—i.e., those in which reality and dreams intermingle.

This last is the key to all his films. (p. 140)

In Les Bas Fonds (1936), in which Renoir's favorite themes are played in the keys of despair and "realism" then fashionable, there is the character of an actor, who, caught in the conflict of dream with reality, recited a few lines of Shakespeare and then hanged himself. I don't recall whether the actor's suicide had a dramatic purpose, but obviously that character bothered Renoir, for it now reappears in and furnishes the theme for The Golden Coach, which is not played in the key of despair, but in a style that has also been bothering Renoir for twenty years—marivaudage….

For some incomprehensible reason Renoir has made [the story] as difficult as possible for the public to understand. A vague symbolism flits around throughout the film…. There is also directing as clever, tight, and smooth as any Renoir has ever done. (p. 141)

Vivaldi's music fits The Golden Coach like a glove, and it is interesting to note that it rarely stops, and reinforces, by this continuity, the feeling of opera bouffe more than of commedia dell' arte.

Angels may be holding up our earth but Renoir didn't show them to us in The Golden Coach. (p. 142)

Lauro Venturi, "Film Reviews: 'The Golden Coach'," in Films in Review (copyright © 1954 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Inc.), Vol. V, No. 3, March, 1954, pp. 140-42.