Renoir promises to be a wonderful visual journey right from the opening scene. The movie doesn’t disappoint viewers as the filmmaker uses artful framing, detailed period pieces, and a consistent palette of color and light that makes the movie feel like something out of Impressionist’s paintings.
Renoir takes place in 1915, when France is in the middle of the First World War that has devoured the whole of Europe. It opens with a young woman riding a bicycle through gray clothed refugees and an effigy of a military uniform hanging from a tree.
Renoir (Michel Bouquet) is near the end of his lifespan. He is crippled by arthritis and is seen in his studio along rolling hills and the French Riviera. We learn that the woman is Andree Heuschling (Christa Theret), a person who wants to be the artist’s model. She claims to have been sent by Mrs. Renoir but the artist’s wife is already dead. When Renoir hears about it, he tells her that they could be working together because she is sent by a dead woman.
Renoir is based on Auguste Renoir. It suggests that the appearance of Heuschling in his studio revitalized his interest in painting after his wife died and his health is deteriorating. The movie also explores the model’s relationship with the artist’s son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) and her influence in his interest in filmmaking.
It is easy to like Renoir but it is not one that’s perfect. It also tackles subthemes such as the cost of war for both soldiers and civilians, the suffering of the aging body, and the correlation of art and inspiration. In the epilogue of the movie, it shows Jean returning from his tour at the front, marrying Andree and starting to make movies. She becomes his muse and makes her the lead actress of his movies until they separated in 1931.