Jean Renoir (15 September 1894 12 February 1979) was an acclaimed French film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor whose work spanned across five decades.
He was the second son of Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. His father had a major influence on the young man, who after serving in the First World War, returned to nurse his father in his final days. While recovering from a battle wound, Renoir saw films by Charlie Chaplin or Charlot as he was known in France and became interested in movies. He made some interesting silent films starring first wife Catherine Hessling and when sound came in, pioneered several bold new techniques which made him a great talent in French cinema. Already in the 30s, years ahead of his time, Renoir pioneered use of recording sound on location, as well as several kind of camera techniques that make his movies seem more modern than most old films. In terms of content, Renoir brought a viewpoint of great complexity and challenged all kinds of received ideas of France and nationalism at the time.
His film The Grand Illusion became an international hit and got him nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. His films after that include a proto-Noir La Bete humaine and a historical drama La Marseillaise that is one of the greatest films about The French Revolution. His final film before the Second World War was The Rules of the Game, which proved to be highly controversial in the year of its release but would later be Vindicated by History as a masterpiece of French Cinema and regularly competed with Citizen Kane on the all-time great films list. During WW2, he made some films in Hollywood that did not have the same impact as his French films, after the war, Renoir shot a film in India, The River and then made an ambitious trilogy of films that pioneered the use of color, achieving in cinema what his father did with painting. He was regarded as "le Patron'' or "The Boss" by the French New Wave and in his retirement in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, served as The Mentor for several young film-makers who regularly visited him.
- Nana (1926) - Adapted from Emile Zola
- La Chienne ("The Bitch") (1931) - Later remade into the American Film Noir Scarlet Street directed by Fritz Lang.
- Boudu Saved from Drowning (Boudu sauvé des eaux) (1932) - Later loosely remade into the American comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills.
- Toni (1935) - A film which was shot in location with nonprofessionals, years before Italian neorealism.
- The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)
- A Day in the Country (Partie de campagne) (1936)
- The Grand Illusion (La Grande illusion) (1936) - Perhaps his most famous film.
- The Lower Depths (1936) - from the play by Maxim Gorky.
- La Marseillaise (1937) - The French Revolution, the non-vilified version.
- La Bête Humaine (1938) - Also remade into an American film by Fritz Lang, the original is pretty Noir itself.
- The Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu)'' (1939) - Regarded today as his masterpiece.
- The Southerner (L'homme du sud) (1945)
- The Diary of a Chambermaid (Le Journal d'une femme de chambre) (1945)
- The River (1951) — in English
- The Golden Coach (1952) — also in English
- French Cancan (1954)
- Elena and Her Men (Elena et les hommes) (1956) - Starring Ingrid Bergman.
- Big Name Fan: Renoir's fan-club is legion: John Ford, Douglas Sirk, Roberto Rossellini, Satyajit Ray, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Wes Anderson, the French New Wave (all of them), Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti (his former assistant), Bernardo Bertolucci and that's only a small list.
- He Also Did: He is the author of the play Orvet, an important memoir on his father Renoir, My Father, his own memoirs (My Life and My Films and a novel (The Notebooks of Captain George). In his early career, he was a designer of ceramics.