French impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir brings to mind beautiful landscapes and adoring portraits of women in various states of dress. But in the later years of his life, his body marred by his years of work, he continues to paint. The 2012 French film Renoir focuses not just on the painter himself in those final years but also on his family and the effect the painter’s final model has on the household.
When a young girl, Catherine Hessling (portrayed by Christa Theret), shows up uninvited to offer herself up as a model for the great Renoir she’s cocky and arrogant with big ambitions for her life. It doesn’t take long, of course, for everyone in the house to notice. The maids cast a suspicious eye while the two youngest Renoir boys cast one of interest. It seems only the great painter himself (Michel Bouquet) is unimpressed by her airs. In particular, Jean (played convincingly by Vincent Rottiers), who’s on medical leave from World War I, becomes smitten with Catherine and the two play a flirtatious game of cat and mouse: she wants the world on a plate and he, somewhat reluctantly, is willing to offer it all to her. Even if it means selling out his family. Indeed, it’s the romance between the young couple that is the focus of Renoir.
Renoir pays wonderful tribute to the painter even if he does play a supporting role to the romantic focus. The film is shot beautifully and features some wonderful scenery from the south of France. While the historical accuracy of the film is disputable, the film itself is both intriguing and romantic.