the story of the last days of the life of the great Impressionist
painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at his home in
Cagnes-sur-Mer on the French Riviera in 1915. While the film is
inordinately slow, it is a richly photographed, lovingly told capturing
of an era strangely untouched by the massacres of World War I.
story revolves around Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret) who later was
known as Catherine Hessling, Renoir’s last model who becomes
romantically involved with Renoir’s middle son, Jean (Vincent Rottiers),
and was the inspiration for this unmotivated son to become a renowned
Although Renoir was known for his Impressionist landscapes, he spent the
last years of his life drawings nude feminine bodies floating in nature.
Director Gilles Bourdos tried to make the fictional story as close to
real life as possible. The actual painting on screen was done by Guy
Ribes, a forger, who had just been released from prison when he took the
job. Ribes doesn’t copy originals. Rather, he paints new, nonexisting
works, by great painters. So all the painting scenes were done on the
set in real time with the hand of Ribes.
seen the documentary Ceux de Chez Nous by Sacha Guitry that
filmed Renoir during this period of his life which shows him painting
with the paintbrush taped to his hand. Watching Bouquet and Ribes
re-create the real Renoir was so realistic Renoir would have approved.
characters in the film were real people as graphics at the end of the
film inform. While Buordos brings them to life, the film is so slow and
action–free that it is sometimes difficult to maintain concentration. On
the positive side, the cinematography by Mark Ping Bing Lee is an
artistic achievement in itself, and worth the price of admission. The
nudity is also enticing. Heuschling’s body looks a work of art, as does
the body of the other model who appears late in the film and whose name
I don’t know.
saddens me to give this well-made, beautifully photographed movie such a
low rating, especially when the acting by the three main characters is
so good. But it is so slow and so long, one must be extremely patient