A Day in the Country Screen 12 articles

A Day in the Country

1946

A Day in the Country Poster
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    The Nation: Manny Farber
    January 13, 1951 | Farber on Film (pp. 341-342)

    In Jean Renoir's "A Day in the Country," a pretty Parisian (Sylvia Bataille) is seduced while the camera fastens on the countryside in tender mimicry of Papa Renoir's paintings. As usual Renoir maneuvers his motorless plot into splendid landscape to press home the idea that man is a handsome spot in nature.

  • It may be only a featurette, but this masterly adaptation of a Maupassant story is rich in both poetry and thematic content... The careful reconstruction of period (around 1860) is enhanced by a typically touching generosity towards the characters and an aching, poignant sense of love lost but never forgotten. And, as always in Renoir, the river is far, far more than just a picturesque stretch of water. Witty and sensuous, it's pure magic.

  • The charm of the film seems almost too easily won, but Renoir's real brilliance emerges in the way the light tone is subtly modulated into the profound sadness and regret of the conclusion.

  • As a featurette, the film’s charm and warmth shine through without the burden of a feature-length narrative, and Renoir’s innate humanism and sense of indolent romance suffuse the entire production.

  • The movie as we have it is not just sublime but virtually perfect, in a league with such other unfinished works as Kafka’s The Castle and Mozart’s “Requiem Mass In D Minor.”

  • The Chinese poem shifts from the years to the day, Renoir’s film from the day to the years, with a similar effect of ambiguity. On either scale, the camera’s retreat downriver seems swift; on either scale, the moment of exhilaration on the swing, of communion with nature on the boat ride upriver, of verdant romance on the river island, seems suspended in time. But the film’s shift from the day to the years is a shift from promise to loss, from a feeling of oneness to a sense of estrangement...

  • What exists of the film is striking in any number of ways, particularly its mise-en-scène, which features instances of deep focus and camera movement that Renoir would perfect just a few years later in The Rules of the Game.

  • Once the lovers from different walks of laugh embrace, nature seems to take over the entire movie, a bird chirping in the tree, raindrops in the river, wind in the greenery, the differences between people overruled by the grand gestures of the earth. In parallel, this film seems to be an example of cinema overtaking even one of its greatest masters as the quality of the film seems to contradict the context of its making.

  • Abandoned yet nearly perfect, Jean Renoir’s “A Day in the Country” (1936) is a movie whose incomplete aspects only accentuate its freshness and spontaneity. “A Day in the Country,” out from Criterion on Blu-ray and DVD, has an emotional complexity — a mixture of joyous melancholy and skeptical pantheism — that belies its 41-minute running time.

  • ...Renoir does something extraordinary; what follows is a calm montage of the countryside right before a storm—reeds, clouds, trees, and raindrops puncturing the river’s surface. It’s tranquil and tempestuous, and suggests a romance bursting forth with a slight hint of violence. The montage also expresses what the plot presently will tell: The romance won’t last to the end of the day.

  • Their meeting is brief but fateful, and Renoir handles their encounter in shorthand, punctuated by one of the great close-ups in cinema. It closes in on Henriette and is an image of overwhelming exhaustion. Henri is not who she thought he was. Henriette is not who he thought she was. And so they are left together with a memory they will keep close to their hearts and never tell another soul.

  • If Night at the Crossroads is defined by its aura of hazy entrapment and immobility for most of its length, A Day in the Country, whilst seemingly far more placidly paced and becalmed than Renoir’s headlong contemporary fables, is actually rendered in a mode of constant, restless motion, conveying the giddy thrill of escaping a city where “there’s not enough oxygen,” as Dufour proclaims, into a land of sun, greenery, and lung-filling freshness.

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