From the Chicago Reader (November 25, 2005). — J.R.
Jean Renoir, The Boss: The Direction of Actors
Directed by Jacques Rivette
With Jean Renoir and Michel Simon
In 1966 Jacques Rivette made a three-part TV documentary titled Jean Renoir, Le patron (Jean Renoir, the Boss), and its 90-minute centerpiece has rarely been seen since. “A Portrait of Michel Simon by Jean Renoir, or A Portrait of Jean Renoir by Michel Simon, or The Direction of Actors: Dialogue,” screening on DVD this week at Alliance Francaise, is a missing link that’s key to understanding Rivette’s work. It’s a raw record of the after-dinner talk between one of the world’s greatest directors and his greatest actor, both in their early 70s, punctuated by clips from the five films they worked on together — Tire-au-Flanc (1928), On Purge Bébé (1931), La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932), and Tosca (1941). It also includes occasional remarks by Rivette, the documentary’s producers (Janine Bazin and Andre S. Labarthe), and the stills photographer (the distinguished Henri Cartier-Bresson). The joy Renoir and Simon clearly share at being reunited is complemented by Rivette’s determination to exclude nothing, so that the “direction of actors” applies to him as much as to his two principals, each of whom can be said to be directing the other.… Read more »
My nominee for Louis Malle’s worst film is this toothless San Francisco remake (1983) of the great Italian heist comedy, Big Deal on Madonna Street, scripted by Jeffrey Fiskin. This was planned for John Belushi, who died before it could get off the ground and might have made the whole thing worth doing. With Jack Warden, Donald Sutherland, Wallace Shawn, and the young Sean Penn. PG, 91 min. (JR)… Read more »
Rarely screened, this is the 90-minute centerpiece to Jacques Rivette’s three-part TV documentary Jean Renoir, the Boss (1966), made just before Rivette discovered improvisation in his fictional L’Amour Fou, Out 1, and Celine and Julie Go Boating. The full on-screen title is “Michel Simon as Seen by Jean Renoir or Jean Renoir as Seen by Michel Simon or The Direction of Actors,” and the raw record of after-dinner talk between the great director and his greatest actor, both in their early 70s, is punctuated with relevant clips from Tire-au-Flanc (1928), On Purge Bebe (1931), La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932), and Tosca (1941). Stills photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and producers Janine Bazin and Andre S. Labarthe are on hand to prod the two old friends, whose palpable joy in each other’s company is complemented by Rivette’s determination to take it all in. Clips of this are included in the Criterion DVD of Boudu, but the full version is as radical in its own way as Renoir and Simon’s masterpiece. Reviewed this week in Section 1. DVD projection. Film scholar Gabe Klinger will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward. Wed 11/30, 7:15 PM, Alliance Francaise Auditorium, 54 W. Chicago, 312-337-1070.… Read more »