Tag Archives: Claude Renoir

Toni (1935, Jean Renoir)

In its opening, Toni is established as an immigrant’s story. Foreign workers (Spanish and Italian) go to the south of France to work the quarries. The opening “prologue”–it’s never announced as a prologue, but there’s an “end of prologue” card–shows the workers’ arrival. The end also shows workers arriving, three years later, after the title character, Toni, has had some adventures. Problematically, he only gets a name after the prologue’s over so it’s hard to recognize him once the first part of the film starts. Toni’s present action is three years, split into one section a year after Toni arrives and has found a place (well, a girlfriend–his landlady) and another, two years later. Because of the split, the film mostly concentrates on melodrama–there’s a love triangle (or quartet, it’s reveal is one of the film’s only decent final act moments)–but never on anything interesting. We never see Toni become friends with the other workers, even though these friendships are incredibly important to the first part of the film. There’s one character–who’s in the entire film–who doesn’t even get a name until the last scene. We also never see Toni and his landlady’s romance, which might have been nice, since–by the time we arrive–he’s a jerk and she’s a nag. There are some moments of the second romance, the one leading into the love triangle, but when the film skips two years… well, it’s just hard for them to have any resonance.

Watching the film, I thought it was one of Renoir’s earliest works, but it’s not, it’s ten years into his career. Some of the shots are the regular, wonderful Renoir shots and I was all set with a sentence about how no one composed for black and white like Renoir did. But there’s a raw element to Toni. The focus is soft when it shouldn’t be and, since it’s filmed on location and some of the actors aren’t actors (there’s a great cutaway from some worker looking straight at the camera, followed by a couple kids who can’t keep a straight face), Toni feels amateurish. None of the lead actors–except Max Dalban as the dimensionless villain–are good, which doesn’t help the film either.

The film has an interesting pace. The opening moves, the middle drags, and the end is somewhere in between. Unfortunately, the perception of the end might be affected by how bad the film is getting. When Renoir ties it into the pretty, “immigrant worker story” bow, Toni flattens, losing anything (not much) it might have been doing. Still, since the quality ranges throughout–getting worse and worse, unfortunately–and starts reasonably high, the film’s not an unpleasant experience. By the end, for example, I’d forgotten I had been expecting a lot more from Renoir.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jean Renoir; screenplay by Renoir, based on a story by Jacques Levert; director of photography, Claude Renoir; edited by Suzanne de Troeye and Marguerite Renoir; music by Paul Bozzi; released by Films Marcel Pagnol.

Starring Celia Montalván (Josefa), Jenny Helia (Marie), Édouard Delmont (Fernand), Max Dalban (Albert), Andrex (Gabi), Michel Kovachevitch (Sebastian) and Charles Blavette (Toni).


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The Golden Coach (1952, Jean Renoir)

I hate the wad-shooting reviews, because they usually mean someone great is falling or has fallen into mediocrity or worse. Here’s another one.

I’ve never seen late period (1950s-) Renoir film before, or even one of his Hollywood films, but I’ve heard bad things. The Golden Coach is certainly a bad thing. It’s got a bad setting–colonial Central America, under Spanish rule–and an international cast. It’s cruel to expect the audience to take someone misspeaking in heavily accented English and Renoir does it. His leading lady, played by Anna Magnani, chokes through her English dialogue. It’s so bad I had to turn on the subtitles. Occasionally she speaks Italian, but Criterion didn’t think to give it a subtitle track–I didn’t bother to see if the subs for the Italian were included in the English subtitles. I doubt they were.

The character is almost a Renoir character, but the film fails her. The screenplay wanders and meanders, mostly because there isn’t a story and it’s impossible to milk it. I suppose Fellini could have milked it, but Renoir isn’t Fellini. Renoir isn’t even Renoir here. The Golden Coach lacks the dual beauty of Renoir’s earlier films, the beautiful direction and the beautiful human condition.

Sitting through it, I started appreciating Kubrick, Clint and Woody more, just because they never tripped, never fell. There are some missteps (I’m not sure there’s a more glaring misstep in any filmography than The Shining), but they never fell.

If you’ve got insomnia, I really recommend this film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jean Renoir; written by Renoir, Jack Kirkland, Renzo Avanzo and Giulio Macchi; director of photography, Claude Renoir; edited by David Hawkins; production designer, Mario Chiari; produced by Francesco Alliata; released by Les Films Corona.

Starring Anna Magnani (Camilla), Odoardo Spadaro (Don Antonio), Nada Fiorelli (Isabella), Dante (Arlequin), Duncan Lamont (Ferdinand, Le Viceroy), George Higgins (Martinez), Ralph Truman (Duc de Castro), Gisella Mathews (Marquise Irene Altamirano), Raf De La Torre (Le Procureur), Elena Altieri (Duchesse de Castro), Paul Campbell (Felipe), Riccardo Rioli (Ramon, le Toreador), William Tubbs (Aubergiste) and Jean Debucourt (Eveque de Carmol).