The French Riviera, 1915. The summer light is exquisite. The painter’s latest model has arrived. Beautiful, golden haired Andree looks intimidated by the older women who inhabit the house.
She’s young, ambitious, not sure why she’s here or for how long, naked on the daybed, unselfconcious in the presence of the artist who is wheelchaired, arthritic, ancient as time, with the face of weathered oak, who speaks of skin, its velvet touch, working on still lives and nudes.
Gilles Bourdos’ film recreates a moment in Renoir’s life when his third son, Jean, returns from the war, wounded on crutches, where he meets Andree, and slips effortlessly under her spell.
The quietness is deceptive, the beauty barbed, the mind lulled into silence as the old man fights pain and Andree plays with Jean.
Hardly a biopic, rather a whisper of nostalgia. Subtle undertones of half-realised emotions merge with the sensual appreciation of warm mornings away from the icy reality of war.
The French are good at this.