Made on the cusp of WWII, Jean Renoir’s satire of the upper-middle classes was banned as demoralizing by the French government for two decades after its release. Renoir, a director associated with the left wing Popular Front, turned his gaze away from working people to the haute bourgeoisie. Taking its cue from the classic stage farces of Musset and Beaumarchais, Renoir sets his action during a shooting weekend at a country house. It’s an upstairs-downstairs world where servants and masters become enmeshed in a tangle of desire, a jumble of motivations in which, in the film’s famous phrase, “Everyone has their reasons.” At the film’s center is the amiable Octave (played by Renoir), whose best intentions lead to tragedy. Shot in long, controlled takes that stress the depth of vision, Renoir’s depiction of an intransigent society teetering blithely into disaster was derided upon release and only later acclaimed as one of cinema’s most vital films.
New 4K DCP Restoration courtesy of Janus Films.
Quotes from the Sight and Sound poll:
“A lesson in life in every word of dialogue, a piece of cinema in every frame. The joy of seeing a movie was never as great as here.” —João Antunes
“A merry-go-round of love and sorrow. A masterful comedy of manners replete with unexpected twists and turns.” —Jan Olsson
“A stunning panorama of metropolitan and provincial, aristocrat and peasant, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, and a tale of two marriages that seems to sum up life in Europe just before World War II.” —Carrie Rickey