Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Day in the Country (Partie de Campagne) [1936]

Jean Renoir had a feature length film in mind when he started working on short story by Guy de Maupassant for A Day in the Country, but couldn’t finish. The result was this 40-minute featurette released 10 years later. The major part of the film is about a day-long picnic of a Parisian family to an idyllic countryside location by the river. There, while the mother has a fun fling when her grumpy husband refuses to pamper her, the young daughter, engaged to a rather neurotic young man, has a more passionate, albeit brief, affair with a soft-spoken commoner – an affair that would continue occupying a sizeable portion of their memories. Handled with velvet gloves, this was a charming look at the foibles and idiosyncrasies of a typical bourgeois family. Yet, despite the satirical undertones and the deliberate accentuation of behavioral traits to elicit laughter, the film was neither malicious nor acerbic in its portrayal; rather, its tone was one of gentleness and warmth. Renoir’s interest lay in portraying the unfulfilled love across a massive class divide, juxtaposing the bittersweet remnants of its memory against a dull and conformist life, and quietly observing life away from the madding crowds. Given its brief length, the simple, lighthearted and fragmentary nature, and the melodramatic style that was alternately amusing and corny, it was difficult to consider it very seriously. Interestingly, the scene where the girl is on a swing with the camera attached to her frame of reference, was recreated by Kurosawa in Ikiru and Ray in Charulata as homage to the master French filmmaker.

Director: Jean Renoir
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Social Satire
Language: French
Country: France

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