Wednesday, December 3, 2014

#746: A Day in the Country

(Jean Renoir, 1936)

A Day in the Country is a simple and lyrical short intended to be a vignette in a larger work by the great Jean Renoir. Because the project was not finished, this piece didn't see a release until a decade after it was filmed. As a standalone Criterion release, A Day in the Country is an odd choice: it's only 40 minutes long and is certainly a minor work in the director's catalog (though it's hard to argue any of Renoir's work is truly minor considering his stature). The outtakes compilation included on the disc is longer than the film itself, making this set more about the supporting extras matching up with the main text than it is about the movie on its own.

Despite this, there is much to love in A Day in The Country. A couple of great performances from the two lovers anchor the film, while the romance/storm montage is striking in its beauty and poetic framing. The depiction of the city/country dichotomy is quite stereotypical, but the film is not striving for any complex grand investigation. It's equally easy to forgive the "no-means-yes" kiss scene, which has been replicated hundreds of times before and after this film.

Ultimately, though, the movie is fairly slight and it seems unlikely that anyone but Criterion or Renoir completists would be interested in purchasing this one. I'm glad to have seen it, but I doubt I'll watch it again.


  1. I happened across this Criterion on the Brain project just yesterday, in an online search to find anyone sharing my distaste for Straw Dogs, and upon reading through, I find myself in agreement with your thoughts on almost every film I've seen in this list (moreso than any other reviewer that I've come across, by a significant margin.) When Criterion recently added this to the upcoming films, I was hoping another Renoir masterpiece had slipped under my radar, but I think I must lower my hopes accordingly. As an aside, you do a damn commendable job concisely putting into words so many thoughts I've had on these films but have had trouble elucidating. It's a pleasure to read.

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words! This project has meant a lot to me so any time I hear that someone is getting something else out of it I am thrilled. I hope I didn't dissuade you from seeing the film entirely, as it is a lovely little movie. For me, though, the under-the-radar Renoir masterpiece is certainly French Cancan - though the whole Stage and Spectacle box is a real treat. If you haven't picked it up, I highly recommend it. Thanks again, you really made my day.

  3. I think the extra background material included with the Criterion Blu-ray/DVD release of this film really elevates the value of this film, as we get a fuller picture of Renoir's goals with this film, and also why he had to abandon it before it was complete. I was similarly "so-so" about the film after watching through it once on Hulu, but with a gorgeous HD transfer and all the extras, I greatly enjoyed watching it through several times over the course of writing up my review over on Criterion Cast.

  4. Yeah, as I mentioned in the review it was pretty clear that this release was more about the set as a whole than it was about elevating this specific movie within Renoir's filmography. I wouldn't mind catching up on the extras at some point, but obviously that is outside the mission of this blog. It's nice to hear that the disc is worth seeking out however, both for me and for any reader who happens upon the review above, which is obviously as cursory as I get.