Bazin Andre Jean Renoir

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C;OIS TRUFFAlIT INTRODUOION BY JEAN RENOIRJEANRENOIRAndreBazinEdited with an Introduction byF R A N ~ O I S TRUFFAUTTranslatedfromtheFrenchbyW. W. HALSEYII and WILLIAMH. SIMONW.H.ALLENLondon & NewYorkA division of Howard &Wyndham Ltd.1974CONTENTSINTRODUCTION by Fran90is TruffautANDRE BAZIN'S LITTLEBERET by JeanRenoirPARTONE1. The Silent Films2. The First Talking Films3. The Era of the Popular Front4. The War Approaches5. The French Renoir6. Renoir in Hollywood7. Renoir Returns8. A Pure Masterpiece: The Riverg. Renoir and the Theater10. Renoir's Third PeriodPARTTWO"Memories" by Jean RenoirThe First Version of The Crime of M. LangeAn Early Treatment of Grand Illusion711131523365374921001041201291471491591726 . CONTENTSBefore The Rules of the Game: An Interview with Jean Renoir 183An Early Scenario for The Rules of the Game(extracts) 187PARTTHREE: FILMOGRAPHY 199INDEX 311Introductionby Fran{:ois TrriffautNooneshouldexpect metointroducethis bookwithcaution,detachment, or equanimity. Andre Bazin andJean Renoir havemeant toomuchtomefor metobeabletospeakofthemdis-passionately. Thus it is quite natural that I should feel thatJeanRenoirbyAndre Bazin is the best bookon the cinema,written by the best critic, about the best director.AndreBazindiedat forty onNovember 11, 1958. Morethanacritic, hewasa "writerofthecinema," strivingtode-scribe filmsrather thantojudgethem. Bazin'sessaysonBres-son, Chaplin, Rossellini, Buiiuel, vonStroheim, andFellini, aswell as hismasterful littlebookonWelles: havebeentrans-lated throughout the world. Hisdeath interruptedhis two mostinterestingprojects: thisbookontheworkofJeanRenoiranda short film on Romanesque churches.Acontributor to L'EcranFranrais, L'Esprit, LeParisienLibere, Telerama (thencalledRadio-Cinema-Television) , andL'Observateur, Bazinprofoundlyinfluencedthefilmmakersofthe "NewWave," starting with those whom he brought togetheratCahiersduCinemaandwhohadjust beguntomakefilmswhen he passed awayaftertenyearsof illness. Thus itwasnotfortuitous that the filmography of Renoir's workreprintedatthe end of this book was put together under Bazin's direction by* Orson WcUes. Edition Ie Chavanne, 1957.71-\ INTRODUCTIONJacques Doniol-Valcroze, Claudede Givray, Jean-Luc Godard,Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, and myself in 1957, and com-pleted and updatedbyClaude Beylie, Jean Douchet, MichelDelahaye, Jean Kress, and Louis Marcorelles in 1971.Andre Bazin, whose health deteriorated year after year,foundthestrengthto lookat films and to comment onthemuntilhislast day. The day beforehisdeathhe wroteoneofhisbest essays-thelonganalysis of TheCrimeof M. Lange*-having watched the film on television from his bed.Renoir'sworkexcitedBazinmore thananyother. Hewasworking on this study of his favorite director when hedied. Hisfragmentarymanuscripthas beenreconstructedandcompletedby his friends with the assistance of his wife, Janine Bazin.I amresponsiblefor thefinal organization of thework, foritsdivisionintotenchapters approximatingthe chronologicaldevelopment of Renoir's work. Obviously Bazin would havedone it differently if he had had time. I think he intended to de-votea chaptertothethemes treatedbyRenoir, another tohiswork with actors, another to the adaptation of novels.In one of his last letters, Bazin wrote me:"I am circling aroundRenoirby readingthelife of Augus-tus, thenovels of Zola: LaBeteHumaineandNana, Maupas.sant ... I will eventually have to approach himmore di-rectly, butI amnowat apoint whereI knoweithertoomuchornot enough. Toomuchtobesatisfiedwithapproximations,not yet enoughto fill inall the variables of his equations" (July7,1958) .Iam not farfromthinking that the workof JeanRenoiristheworkof aninfalliblefilmmaker. Tobelessextravagant. Iwill say that Renoir's work has always been guidedbyaphilos-ophyof lifewhich expresses itself withthe aid of somethingmuchlike a trade secret: sympathy. It is thanks to this sym-pathy that Renoir has succeeded in creating the mostalive films Those of Renoir's films which were commercially distributed in theUnitedStatesarereferredtohercbytheir Americar{ titlps. Thedates arethoseof theoriginal release. AmericanandFrench titles, as wpll as theAmericanreleasedatesof theFrenchfilms, aregiveninthefilmographyat thecndof thc book. Translators' notp.INTRODUCTION 9inthehistoryof the cinema, films which still breathe fortyyears after they were made.AndreBazin, whomhis friends remember as anextraor-dinary man full of joyous goodwill and intelligence. found him-selfincompletesympathywiththeworkof Renoir, withhisthirtyfilms all of whichrevolve aroundthe famous sentencefromTheRules of the Game(spoken byRenoir himselfintheroleof Octave): "You see, in this world, there is one awfulthing, and that is that everyone has his reasons."Ifthis beautiful bookbyAndreBazinis unfinished. con-sider it unfinishedinthe manner of A Day inthe Country.which is to say that it issufficient toitself and, even initsfrag-mentary state, thefinest portrait of Jean Renoirever written.AndreBazin'sLittleBeret byJeanRenoiT ThemoreItravelthroughlife,themoreIamconvincedthat masksareproliferating.Ihavedifficultyfindingawoman whosefacelooksasit really is.Our age isthe triumphofmakeup.Andnotonly forfaces,but,moreimportant,forthemind as well. Themodernworldisfoundedontheeverincreasingproduction of material goods.One must keepproducingor die.But thisprocessislikethelabor ofSisyphus.ForgettingLavoisier's dictum,"Innaturenothingiscreated,nothingislost;everythingistransformed,"weconvinceourselvesthatourearthly machineswillsucceedincatchingupwitheternity.Butto maintainthelevelofproductiononwhichourdailybreaddepends, we must ever renew and expand our enterprises. One prefers that this process be peaceful,but events havea way ofgetting out ofhand.Thisisan ageofviolence,and it is likely to become even more so.Still, we doeverything we can to conduct our operation peacefully, to conquer by persuasion. And thus, the cancer of our society:advertising. Occasionallyinsuchtroubledtimes,menorwomencome forthtodedicate themselves tohelping usreestablishasenseof reality. Bazin was such a man. I loved him because he belonged to the Middle Ages.Ihave apassionfortheMiddleAges,justasIhaveadistrustforthe Andre Bazin(1957) 11 12JEANRENOIR Renaissance.That movement, which laid the foundationsof industrialsociety,isultimately responsiblefortheatomicbomb. The frailfigureofBazin,withered withsickness,waslike Pascal's"thinkingreed."Forme,hewastheincarnationof oneofthesaintsintheCathedralofChartreswhoprojecta luminousandmagical visionthroughtheir stained-glassrepresentations.Iwould have liked tovisit Chartres with Bazin.Iregret that Inever had the chance.This enthusiast ofthe cinema was as much at home in amedieval chapel as he was in frontof a screen on the Champs-Elysees. ClotheslookeddifferentonBazin.Theywerethesame clothes one saw onother people, but on him they lost theircontemporary appearance. The anachronism of his outward appearance wasneither aprotest norarevolt,norleastofall,anaestheticdeclaration.It wasinvoluntary.Itidentifiedhimasan aristocratbeforeheopenedhismouth,andhewasnoteven aware of it. Hislittleberetperfectlysuitedthefrailfigureofthereformer of the French cinema. I will never forget it. Thesicknesswhich gnawedat Bazin vanquished hisspirit beforehewasabletofinishthisbook.Franc;oisTruffautand othersof his friendsundertooktocomplete it.Theirs arenames which,tomymind,figureprominentlyinthehistoryofthe cinema.Iwould be falselymodestifIdid not expressmy deep gratitudetothem.IdonotknowifIdeservethishonor,butI hasten toaccept it.This moment isabeautifulgiftfromBazin. It is not the first, or the last:great men do not die. At the thought ofBazin who dedicated this booktomeand ofhis disciples whocompleted it,Ifeelavery gentle pride.My feelingisthatofamanwhohasjustbeengivenafirmhandshake by someone he admires greatly. March 18, 1971 * "Manisbutareed,themostfeeblethinginnature;butheisathinkingreed.Theentireuniverseneednot 'armitselftocrush him.Avapor, adropof water, sufficetokill him.But if theuniverseweretocrush him, manwouldstillbemorenoblethanthatwhichkilledhim,becausehe knowsthathediesandtheadvantagewhichtheuniversehasoverhim; the univcrse knows nothing of this." Blaise Pascal, Pensecs.Trans. PARTONE ~ . I I Catherine Hessling and Werner Krauss in N ana CHAPTERONE THESILENTFILMS In aremarkablearticlepublished inLe Pointin1938JeanRenoirlookedbackonhisdaysasasilentfilmdirectoradecade earlier. He emphasized his admiration for the American cinema ofthe1920S,butsaidthathisrealdesiretomakemovieswas born the daythatashowing ofLe BrasierArdent*taughthim thatafilmofqualitycouldbe producedsomewhereother than Hollywood.Thisfirstconversionwas followed,likePascal's,by another,more profound and radical vision when Renoir saw von Stroheim's FoolishWives."This film astoundedme,"Renoir recalled."Imusthaveseenitatleasttentimes.Destroyingmy mostcherishednotions,itmademerealizehowwrongIhad been.Insteadofidlycriticizingthepublic'ssupposedlackof sophistication,Isensed that Ishould try toreachit throughthe projectionofauthenticimagesinthetraditionofFrench realism"t Renoirsoughttocultivatetherealism,theauthenticity, whichhehadfoundinthepopularAmericanproductionsand invonStroheim'sworkthroughtheproperdirectionofhis A1923filmmadeinFrancebytheRussianemigreactor-directorIvan Mosjoukine.Trans. t ThefamousLePointarticleisreproducedine.rtensoinPartII. Fran