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Jean Renoir: The Collection in June

Optimum Home Entertainment have announced the UK DVD release of Jean Renoir: The Collection on 4th June 2007 priced at £44.99. Born in Paris in 1894, Jean Renoir was the son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste and enjoyed an idyllic childhood. After fighting in WW1, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he made the move from screenwriter to filmmaker, wanting to make a star out of his then wife Catherine Hessling. Le Crime de Monsieur Lange was his first real success, and became a template from which his most accomplished films would be drawn – beautifully accurate observations on the nuances of human behaviour, with wit, irony and poignancy; absolutely effortless in execution and timeless in their relevancy. As Renoir himself put it: "My dream is of a craftsman's cinema in which the author can express himself as directly as the painter in his paintings or the writer in his books." Having been nominated once previously for Best Director, Renoir won an honorary Oscar in 1975 for his contribution to cinema.

This collection brings together an overview of Renoir’s work spanning over 25 years, including his anti-war masterpiece La Grande Illusion. Also in the set are La Bête Humaine, La Marseillaise, Éléna Et Les Hommes, Le Testament Du Docteur Cordelier, Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe, Le Caporal Épinglé.

With all titles digitally restored, this box-set also marks the UK DVD premiere of all titles apart from La Grande Illusion and La Bête Humaine.

The titles are presented in a mixture of 4:3 and 1.66:1 with mono audio and English subtitles. Extras across the set include:

  • ”La Grande Illusion Intro by Ginette Vincendeau
  • 2 shorts by Jean Renoir: Sur Un Air De Charleston & La Petite Marchande D’Allumette
  • Documentary on La Marseillaise (30 mins)
  • Documentary on Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (38 mins)
  • Documentary on Le Caporel Epingle (29 mins)
  • ”Le Caporel Epingle” Trailer
  • ”Le Testament Du Docteur Cordelier” Trailer


For a full rundown of individual disc specs and synopses for each film see the following taken from the press release…


LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1937)

Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion is a poetic and poignant meditation on class, the nature of war and the death of the old European order. Aristocratic Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), mechanic Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin) and wealthy Jewish banker Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) are all thrown together, despite their vastly different backgrounds, as prisoners of the Germans in World War I. Separated by a successful escape, they are recaptured and reunited in an imposing fortress commanded by German aristocrat Van Rauffenstein (Erich Von Stroheim). Boeldieu and Rauffenstein strike up a friendship that reflects their belonging to a cultural and social elite that they both know is on the way out. However this rapport soon confuses loyalties and threatens Boeldieu’s allegiances to the others with tragic consequences. La Grande Illusion was nominated for Best Picture in 1939.

EXTRAS>>> Intro by Ginette Vincendeau / 2 shorts by Jean Renoir: Sur Un Air De Charleston & La Petite Marchande D’Allumette

Running time: 110 mins approx
Aspect ratio: 4:3 Full Frame
B&W PAL
Audio: Mono
French language with English subtitles



LA BÊTE HUMAINE (1938)

Made in the year between La Grande Illusion and La Règle du Jeu, La Bête Humaine is based on the novel by Emile Zola and furthers illustrates Renoir’s pre-occupation with the human condition. Jacques Lantier (Jean Gabin), becomes the lover of Severine (Simone Simon), deputy station master Roubaud’s (Fernand Ledoux) wife. Roubaud overlooks the affair because he rightly believes that Lantier knows he killed his wife’s previous lover. However Lantier cannot separate his attraction to a woman from his desire to kill her, so for how long will their happiness last before his murderous intent overpowers his feelings of love?

Cert: PG
Feature running time: 96 mins approx
Feature Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
B&W Pal
Audio: Mono
French language with English subtitles

LE MARSEILLAISE (1938)

Jean Renoir’s carefully woven tapestry of the French Revolution depicts the turbulent events of July 15th 1789 to August 10th 1792 – from the storming of the Bastille by an undisciplined rabble to the defeat of the mighty Prussian infantry by a unified nation. The film traces the adventures of Arnaud and Bornier, two members of the peoples’ army whose fight for the principles of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternity represents that of the nation itself, and whose anthem, a song newly adopted from the Rhineland, would become known as La Marseillaise.

EXTRAS>>> Documentary on La Marseillaise (30 mins)

Cert: PG
Feature running time: 125 mins approx
Feature Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
B&W Pal
Audio: Mono
French language with English subtitles


ÉLÉNA ET LES HOMMES (1956)

Ingrid Bergman stars as Elena, a Polish countess, who falls in love with men on the cusp of greatness who need her support, then leaves them when their life’s goals have been achieved: her mission also then fulfilled. Her passion for great (undiscovered) men extends to great causes, and leads her to fall in with a group of conniving plotters who plan a coup d’etat, after which they will install war hero General Francois Rollan (Jean Marais), as dictator. Rollan lets himself be used as a pawn because he is in love with Elena and matters are further complicated by Henri (Mel Ferrer), a friend of the General’s who is also in love with the Countess.

Cert: U
Feature running time: 94 mins approx
Feature Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Colour PAL
Audio: Mono
French language with English subtitles


LE TESTAMENT DU DOCTEUR CORDELIER (1959)

Le Testament Du Docteur Cordelier is Renoir’s take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde story, switching the action to 1950s France. Jean-Louis Barrault stars as Dr Cordelier, whose strange experiments on research patients have resulted in a vicious brute named Opale, seemingly responsible for a wave of terror sweeping the Paris suburbs. When a friend of Cordelier’s – Monsieur Joly (Teddy Bilis) - discovers that the doctor intends to leave everything he has to Opale, his interest is piqued and begins to delve into the mystery that surrounds the doctor and his strange work…

EXTRAS>>> Trailer

Cert: PG
Feature running time: 92 mins approx
Feature Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
B&W Pal
Audio: Mono
French language with English subtitles

LE DÉJEUNER SUR L’HERBE (1959)

Dr Etienne Alexis (Paul Meurisse) is a scientist involved in a radical program pioneering the use of artificial insemination. Coming from a coldly formal intellectual upbringing, Alexis’ invention aims to remove passion from reproduction as he perceives it to be unnecessary complication; and in doing so he will bring further wealth to his family via their chemical-making corporations. To celebrate both the invention and his engagement to a German cousin, Alexis and some friends hold a picnic where the unexpected interruption by a windstorm coupled with the appearance of young and beautiful servant Nenette (Catherine Rouvel) serve to radically re-educate Alexis’ beliefs about the nature of love and class. Inspired by his father’s paintings, the film is visually stunning whilst cultivating a playful air of satire and romance.

EXTRAS>>> Documentary on Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (38 mins)

Cert: PG
Feature running time: 88 mins approx
Feature Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Colour PAL
Audio: Mono
French language with English subtitles


LE CAPORAL ÉPINGLÉ (1962)

Revisiting the prison camp setting he first exploited in La Grande Illusion almost 30 years before, Renoir directs Jean-Pierre Cassel as an aristocratic French Corporal who is captured by the Germans shortly after their invasion of France in 1940. Helped by a variety of different characters – both French and German, the Corporal repeatedly escapes and is re-captured, sometimes making it barely a mile, sometimes all the way to the French border. Nominated for the Golden Bear at Venice.

EXTRAS>>> Documentary on Le Caporel Epingle (29 mins) / Trailer

Cert: PG
Feature running time: 101 mins approx
Feature Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Colour PAL
Audio: Mono
French and German language with English subtitles

Last updated: 19/04/2018 02:32:08

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