BEFORE his most famous films, La Grande Illusion and The Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir adapted Guy de Maupassant’s short story into the short film A Day in the Country. At first underrated because of its short duration, the film was finally appreciated after the war and declared a lyrical masterpiece.
A petit bourgeois family has left the heat of Paris for a Sunday picnic in the lush shade of trees by a nearby river. After the family has enjoyed the contents of their abundant picnic basket, the father takes a well-deserved nap. While he is sleeping, two young men appear to woo the plump mother and their sweet teenage daughter. The men idle about rowing along the river. One of them takes the daughter rowing as the other one keeps the mother company. On the boat, the girl is swept away by her fantasies – actually Renoir does not show what really happens – until rain forces the two to return to the others. The dream of a fleeting love haunts the girl for the rest of her life as she is forced to marry a dull groom of her father’s choosing.
Renoir has taken these few events to develop an impressionist poem that brings to mind the director’s father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and his masterpieces that celebrate the beauty of nature and his characters’ joie de vivre. (VpM)