Tire au flanc (1928)

22 06 2009

The earliest, and quite possibly the lightest film I’ve seen from Jean Renoir, yet possibly my favorite as well. The characters are drawn very broadly, but I can’t consider this much of a fault when the film has so many other things to fall back on. Unlike Renoir’s later and much more famous work, this isn’t some deep, intricate, and complex character study. It is, instead, a war-time comedy, and as long as one can accept a certain degree of hokeiness, then this is absolutely one of Renoir’s easiest films to enjoy.

While the characters aren’t as fully drawn as the ones in The Rules of the Game, they are photographed just as elegantly. This is one of Renoir’s earliest collaborations with Jean Bachelet, who would later team up with Sacha Guitry. As one would expect, the film looks amazing. Something one would not expect is the early handheld (looking?) cinematography which doesn’t describe the entire film, just merely a few impressive sequences. Surprisingly, the shaky camera approach is not primitive-looking, but rather smooth and pleasant to watch.

The story concerns a privledged men sent, along with his servant (played by a rare beardless Michel Simon) to the military. His upperclass manner alienates and unintentionally threatens everyone else. A few love stories surface too, but they seem to mainly exist for more comedic setups. The shallowness of the story is apparent immediately. The humor is of the same vein as every other “boot camp” drama made in the next 80 years. However, I do think there is something special going on here. Maybe it’s just the fact that it is an early Renoir film, or the fact that it looks stunning, or the ability to see Michael Simon without facial hair. Whatever the case, it really is a treat. Recommended for all Renoir fans, as well as to those that haven’t really been impressed with his other efforts.



One response

23 06 2009

Tire au flanc is great.

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