Jean Renoir

Jean Renoir was a French film director, actor and producer who has made more than forty films from the silent era to the end of the 1960s. At the outbreak of World War I Renoir served in the French cavalry but after receiving a bullet in his leg, he served as a reconnaissance pilot. His leg injury left him with a permanent limp, but allowed him to discover the cinema, as he recuperated by watching films with his leg elevated; seeing the works of Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith. After the war ended, Renoir made a decision to become a filmmaker, being particularly inspired by Erich von Stroheim’s work. It wasn’t until the 1930s when Renoir became a great success with several of his early sound films, most famously the psychological drama La Chienne (1931) the comedic farce Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) and the short and romantic A Day in the Country (1936). In 1937 Renoir made what became one of his most successful films, La Grande Illusion. The film starred Erich von Stroheim and Jean Gabin, as the story involved a series of escape attempts by French POWs during World War I. Grand Illusion was a meditation on honor, brotherhood and the collapse of the old order of European civilization; and was the very first foreign language film to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Unfortunately it was banned in Italy by Mussolini, and ordered to be destroyed by Germany, after propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels feared the film would have a negative influence on the fighting morale of German soldiers. In 1939, able to co-finance his own films, Renoir made The Rules of the Game (1939) an absurd comedy of manners that ends in tragedy. The film was Renoirs greatest commercial failure, as the film was condemned by a Parisian crowd for its unmoral representation on the French upper classes. Deeply hurt, Renoir initially left France and moved to Hollywood a year later to avoid working under the Nazi occupation. Unfortunately during one of the Allied bombings, the original negative of the film was destroyed, leading many to believe that a complete version would never be seen again. After the war, pieces of the negative were found, and the film was finally restored to its original running time, along with Jean Renoir’s approval. In Hollywood, Renoir had difficulty finding projects that suited him, but in 1949 Renoir traveled to India and made his very first color film titled The River. Jean Renoir was ranked by the BFI’s Sight & Sound poll of critics in 2002 as the fourth greatest and most influential director of all time. His films Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game are often cited by critics and film scholars as among the greatest films ever made. On his death, fellow director and friend Orson Welles wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times, entitled ‘Jean Renoir: The Greatest of all Directors,’ and Renoir received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 1975 for his contribution to the motion picture industry.

Jean Renoir
Jean Renoir Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Jean Renoir

Grand Illusion (1937)

Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion is not only the greatest of all prison escape movies but it is regarded by critics and film historians as one of the greatest films in the world. Apart from its other extraordinary achievements Grand Illusion influenced three later movie sequences that became classics of their own. The digging of the escape […]


Rules of the Game, The (1939)

By February 1939 war was brewing near and a feeling of doom was hanging over Europe. The great French director Jean Renoir anticipated for war and troubled by it, he created a remarkable comedy of manners, an absurd comic farce that ends in tragedy. A total box-office failure in 1939, Jean Renoirs The Rules of the Game is now […]