Jean Renoir (1894-1979), a ceramicist turned filmmaker, married Catherine Hessling--the vivacious model who had cared for his ailing father, Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir--and made her the star of his films. In this impressive critical biography, written with the cooperation of the director's son Alain, Catherine is portrayed as an unloving, vengeful, sexually cold mate who hated being a mother. This revealing portrait traces Renoir's support of the French Communist Party, his escape from Nazi-occupied France in 1940 with Dido Freire, who became his second wife, his trying years in Hollywood, where he was treated as a novice or a spoiled brat, and his return to France and his cultural roots. Bergan, coauthor of Faber Companion to Foreign Films , deftly illuminates Renoir's fluent, compassionate, poetic naturalism. Photos. (Aug.)
This U.S. edition of a British work of the same title (Bloomsbury, 1992) is published to coincide with the centenary of the French film director's birth. Unfortunately, Bergan's journalistic style is tedious, giving little sense of the joie de vivre of the director of La Bte Humaine (1938) and The Rules of the Game (1939). A few black-and-white photographs tossed into the middle provide a brief respite, and a useful filmography, bibliography, and detailed index are included. But the footnotes, which are lumped together by chapter at the end, are useless for scholarly research. Though this could be useful as a supplementary guide to Renoir's films, libraries should first consider Andr Bazin's much-praised 1973 biography Jean Renoir (LJ 4/1/73; Da Capo. 1992. reprint) or Celia Bertin's passable Jean Renoir (LJ 8/91).-P. Steven Thomas, Sangamon State Univ., Springfield, Ill.
Offers appraisals of all of the French director's films and an account of his working methods, and details his personal life, from his idyllic childhood as the son of a master painter, to his marriages and his death in 1979. Includes b&w photos, previously unpublished letters, and a filmography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)