EXEC PROD Christine De Jekel
PRODS Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
SCR Gilles Bourdos, Michel Spinosa, Jérôme Tonnerre
CAM Mark Lee Ping-Bin
EDS Valérie Deloof, Cyril Holtz, Yannick Kergoat
PROD DES Benoît Barouh
MUS Alexandre Desplat
PROD CO Fidélité Films
Gilles Bourdos’ wonderfully acted, gorgeously shot fact-based period piece is such a made-for-the-big-screen story that it’s surprising it hasn’t been given the cinematic treatment before. In 1915, at the suggestion of Henri Matisse, the 15-year-old Andrée Heuschling took a position in the arthritic 74-year-old painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s gorgeously situated home on the Côte d’Azur. In short order, the beautiful and vivacious young woman inspired a renewed vigour in the aging master and assumed the role of Renoir’s final model and muse. Enter Renoir’s 21-year-old son Jean—future genius of cinema—who, having been severely wounded in WWI, comes home to convelesce. As smitten as his father by Heuschling’s beauty, Renoir—still an unformed and directionless young man—falls in love. (Later, Heuschling would adopt the stage name Catherine Hessling and serve as the leading lady in a half-dozen silent films by Renoir).
The delights here are many: Bourdos’ lyrical, leisurely directing style perfectly captures the pace of his characters’ semi-rural existence; Mark Lee Ping-Bin’s luscious cinematography (he shot In the Mood for Love) gives the sun-dappled setting the luminosity one only finds in the south of France; and the acting—veteran Michel Bouquet as Renoir père, Vincent Rottiers as Renoir fils and the enchanting Christa Theret as muse to both—is superlative on all counts.