In the summer of 1915, the impressionistic painter, Auguste Renoir (Michael Bouquet), then 74, lived on his farm, Les Colletes, near Cagnes-sur-Mer and the Mediterranean.
Though tormented by arthritis, his hands gnarled and painful, a paintbrush each day tied to his right hand, he continued to revel in his art and life, his eyes still capable of embracing the breathtaking landscape surrounding his estate. And he continued to capture on canvas the rounded pink shapes of nude models that became the signature work of his later years.
The film "Renoir" is not so much a narrative as a series of gorgeous vignettes woven together like a lovely tapestry. At the beginning of that memorable summer, Renoir hires a new model, Andree Heusching (Christa Theret). Her unblemished body, ripe and curvaceous, full of breast, her wild cinnabar hair framing her lovely face, a defiance touching her eyes and lips, she soon becomes Renoir's muse and a source of renewed inspiration.
Star Trek Into Darkness
And so the film becomes a meditative series of days, strung together like incandescent light bulbs, each beginning with the four maids (once models) carrying Renoir in a type of sedan chair to his studio where he will paint. And afternoons are spent in the luxuriant meadows near wide streams, surrounded by windblown trees of a deep, almost purple green.
And then, unexpectedly, Renoir's older son, Jean (Vincente Rottiers), wounded in the war that is raging to the north, returns to convalesce at the estate. He dotes on his father and is slowly, inextricably, drawn to the charismatic, high-strung, compelling Andree.
He seamlessly slips into the routine of their days, bathed in almost surreal beauty and sunshine, looking over his father's shoulder, squeezing tubes of paints for him, while he moves about the large house, with views of the ocean, hobbling on crutches, waiting for his leg to heal.
Although the relationships between father and son and Andree are nuanced, subtle and always captivating, even at times ambiguous, director Giles Bourdos never allows the film to slip into unnecessary melodrama or manufactured conflict. This represents the film's great strength.
"Renoir," photographed by Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing, is beautifully shot, the camera lingering on Renoir's visage and Andree's image, as she lounges on a divan or walks carelessly about, her backdrop the breathtaking stretches of wild grass, bending in the gentle breezes.
The film is a work of art as much as is one of Renoir's canvasses, aesthetically pleasing and elegant to behold. One that mirrors life, its slow rhythms, its incremental pace and then it transcends.
"Star Trek Into Darness"
"Star Trek" is a phenomenon, and since 1966, when the TV show debuted, rarely absent from our pop culture landscape. But here's what puzzles: it was only on NBC for three seasons and received ho-hum ratings and soon was canceled.
But all through the 1970s it appeared in reruns and soon became a cult classic, a series that was more than the sum of its parts. Certainly more than a simple franchise. It's reach is well beyond, say, "Star Wars." But what, exactly, is its unshakable attraction? That continues to remain elusive and likely the subject of more than one grad student's thesis.
Now, after five additional TV spinoffs and 11 theatrical films, the 12th film, "Star Trek Into Darkness," has been released. Think of it as the second installment in a prequel series, all taking place during those years — the 23rd century — before the TV "Star Trek" began.
"Into Darkness" opens with Capt. James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban), running through a pink forest on the planet Nibiru, chased by indigenous people, until the two jump off a cliff into the ocean below.
And so begins one more adventure of crew and captain of the Enterprise that is superb escapist fare for summer. The villain, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberpatch), is top drawer. The mission is a harrowing, sensory feast as the Enterprise journeys to the darkest reaches of space.
Having seen "Into Darkness," fans must wait for 2016, the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek," which will undoubtedly include the third celebratory prequel.
— Chris Honoré