Friday, November 20, 2009
La Chienne's a bitch of a movie: thorny edits, coarse tracking shots, bitter depth of field, those jerky pans. There's a slight brutality to the way the camera moves, something a little rough that reminds you that Renoir was often as merciless as Fassbinder. He was never elegant; who knows where that part of his reputation comes from. No, Renoir is, like any good humanist, often harsh. He loves the idea of humanity enough that he doesn't feel the need to gloss over it; even Ophüls' elegance was never glossy. To gloss over aspects of humanity is to hold it in contempt, to believe that only through falseness, or an active denial, is it possible to portray people positively. "They're all foul, and we must gloss over them to make them close to likable." That's why Michel Simon was such a good lead for Renoir; he could take it. He was strong enough to be made ugly.