Director Jean Renoir’s entrancing first color feature—shot entirely on location in India—is a visual tour de force. Based on the novel by Rumer Godden, the film eloquently contrasts the growing pains of three young women with the immutability of the holy Bengal River.
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It seems to me that the antagonistic element in Renoir's cinema that peaked in La règle du jeu was the heart of his cinema's strength. I vastly prefer La règle to La Grande Illusion, because I respond to the mordant critique more than the humanism. The River, however, as celebratory of people as anything ever made, is a triumph. It is not a defense of colonialism. There are no heroes or villains. There is us.
Decepetively humanistic in its representation of the ebb and flow of human existence, where one life must end another begins, the cycle continues with ceaseless ease and we are left with the question of why must we care about the mundane in the world when we can merely stay as children and focus on what makes us happy. Growing up brings nothing but misery 'at least someone escaped it all', masterpiece.
As much Edenic loss and explicit colonialism as an entire shelf of Conrad, but also an aura to match its garden's colors. However uncritical of its own historical narrative, it certainly rarefies its source. To quote another White Man embarrassed by his darkness in every mirror: "between the idea/and the reality/between the motion/and the act/falls the shadow."
Renoir's The River moves along with the ebb and flow of the Ganges River featured so prominently in the film. The story itself is actually somewhat mundane and the dialogue ranges from the poetic to the stilted, and the acting isn't great, but Renoir's images elevate this film to an almost transcendental level. It certaintley affected me more than The Rules of the Game, but not as much as Grand Illusion.
This film shows not India but a very specific location in india, and that´s why it is so universal, but above all, as someone has said, the place is there to show the cinema, and not the contrary... They say "The river" is the most beautiful film ever made. I believe it.