The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir (1970)

By Vincent Canby: “‘Le Petit Theatre’ is as much a cause for celebration as an act of It, by one of the greatest of all film directors, who will mark his 80th birthday this September. It is precise, witty, and luminous, and it stands just a little apart from time in the way of a work by an artist whose career spans the better part of a century. ‘Le Petit Theatre’ was originally commissioned for French television. It is cornpnsed of three short comedies plus an outrageously funny; between‐the‐acts performance by Jeanne Moreau as a beautiful, dead‐pan, turn‐of‐the‐century Parisian music‐hall singer who, like Zola’s Nana, takes her talent a lot more seriously than her audiences may be able to. The director himself, the Octave in ‘Rules of the Game,’ now older and in his own character as master of illusions introduces the acts on screen, standing over one of those miniature theaters that any child would give up a month of Saturdays to own. As Renoir gives creillt to his “collaborator” on the first sketch (Hans Christian Andersen), the camera moves away from him over the tiny footlights into the ‘real’ world of the theater. Back and forth we go until, at last, in the concluding sequence, the players, at a critical moment, release us from our commitments to them by turning toward the camera to bow from the apron of Jean Renoir’s little theater. The moment is both playful and exceptionally moving because, like so many other moments within the film, it recalls Renoir’s blessed preoccupation with performance, with theater, as a means of getting a fix on life, if only for a little while. The opening sequence, ‘The Last Christmas Dinner,’ is another adaptation —or variation really—of the Andersen story from which Renoir made ‘La Petite Marchande d’Allumettes’ in 1928. … The second sequence is a comically mad opera, complete with singing choruses, arias and sudden deaths, called ‘The Electric Waxer,’ about a woman fatally obsessed with the shine on her parquet floor. … The last sequence, ‘Le Roi d’Yvetot,’ is set in the Midi of so many of Renoir’s earlier films and concerns the ‘revolution’ effected by an elderly landowner (Fernand Sardou), his pretty young wife (Frangoise Arnoil) and her young lover (Jean Carmet) when they rind themselves quite happy in spite of conventions. …”
NY Times
W – The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir, W – Jean Renoir
senses of cinema: Jean Renoir
YouTube: The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir 1:38:29

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