A Day in the Country (1936)

A Day in the Country (“Partie de campagne”) Day in the Country Poster
Directed by Jean Renoir
Written by Jean Renoir based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant
1936/France
Panthéon Productions

First viewing
#94 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

“The kiss itself is immortal. It travels from lip to lip, century to century, from age to age. Men and women garner these kisses, offer them to others and then die in turn.” ― Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, Part One

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.

Day in the Country 1

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.

Clip

6 thoughts on “A Day in the Country (1936)

  1. That is one I haven’t seen. Why is it unfinished?……because of WWII or something else. Doesn’t sound like anything special…….altho’ anything he directed was better than most.

    • All I have been able to find is he didn’t finish “because of the weather”, which seems odd. (Although almost the whole film is exterior shots.) It wasn’t released until 1946. The preface says something like “it wasn’t completed because Renoir was in America.”

  2. This film fragment is one that I desperately wish could have been completed. There’s the inkling of a great story here even if it never gets us all the way there. I find hints of greatness, peeks into what could have been one of the best films of its era. It’s a shame, really.

    • Yes, I really like all those beautiful shots on the river and the girl and boy. What I could have done without was the charactures of the father and shop assistant.

  3. I know this is a film that has its fans, but I guess I am not among them. It is pretty for sure, but I just fail to associate with the characters. I agree that it is odd they did not pick one of Renoirs finished films instead.

    • Sometimes I wondr if The Book delights in picking obscure films. The Lower Depths is great and is available on DVD, whereas I had to watch this online and was glad to find it there. That said, I think I liked this one a bit more than you did.

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