A Day in the Country (“Partie de campagne”)
Directed by Jean Renoir
Written by Jean Renoir based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant
#94 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Jean Renoir’s third film of 1936 is an unfinished jewel that makes up in atmosphere and emotion what it lacks in characterization and story.
The Dufours are Parisian dairy owners. Father, mother, daughter and shop boy take an annual trip to the country one Sunday where they stop at a riverside inn for lunch. Henrietta, the daughter, is enchanted by the beauty of the setting, which awakens in her an inexpressible tenderness. Two young men are also dining at the inn. After lunch, they provide the father and shop assistant with fishing poles and offer to take the ladies rowing. Henri takes Henrietta to his secret grove of trees where they kiss. With Jean Renoir in a small part as the owner of the inn.
Renoir evokes the essence of a lazy summer day with his camerawork, which is just gorgeous. The music, too, reflects the fullness in Henrietta’s heart. In fact, the whole ambience has the feeling of Renoir’s father the impressionist painter. I imagine it was for this reason that the film was selected for The List. Otherwise, I don’t understand why one of the other two excellent 1936 films, The Crime of Monsieur Lange or The Lower Depths were not chosen. Those reflect completed work and are far more substantial than this one, which is a little farcical in the early parts for my taste.