Jean Renoir Louise Corbin - Essay

Louise Corbin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Le Caporal Epinglé] is not one of [Renoir's] best, and I was unable to work up any interest in his mishmash about French prisoners of the Germans during the last war. The prisoners themselves are dull dogs, and the things Renoir put them through often make no sense, and are a bore when they do.

In addition to directing, Renoir collaborated, with Guy Le Franc, on the script and dialogue. I am afraid Renoir is no longer capable of saying anything that isn't "safe." And "safe" remarks in the jumble-jungle that is French intellectual life today are even more platitudinous than "safe" remarks were in the days of the Third Republic. (pp. 114-15)

The stalag incidents in which Renoir involves them are old-hat, and it is saddening to notice how often Renoir resorts to excretory humor, and to the French equivalent of 4-letter Anglo-Saxon words, to "liven things up."

Something of Renoir's current mental confusion was revealed when he was asked to compare Le Caporal Epinglé to La Grande Illusion. "The whole point of the earlier picture," he is quoted as having said, "was to show that among individuals of a similar social background there exists an affinity that transcends national sentiments—even in wartime. This new story is about the solidarity between men facing a common ordeal. To the men of La Grande Illusion the invasion did not mean the end of their way of life—they were rooted on solid ground. Today's people move through quicksand, in a world that is in transition. Our illusions are gone, and, this being so, it is obviously impossible to make the same picture."

Quite a paragraph. Read it carefully and you will discover that denizens of the Left and of the Right, as well as those of the Center, can each find in it confirmation of their preconceptions. (p. 115)

Louise Corbin, "Film Reviews: 'Le caporal epinglé'," in Films in Review (copyright © 1963 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Inc.), Vol. XIV, No. 2, February, 1963, pp. 114-15.