Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sylvia Bataille, Georges D'Arnoux, Jane Marken, André Gabriello, Jacques B. Brunius, Paul Temps, Gabrielle Fontan, Jean Renoir, Marguerite Renoir, Pierre Lestringuez
Written by: Jean Renoir, based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant
Directed by: Jean Renoir
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 40
Date: 01/01/1936

Partie de campagne (1936)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on Guy de Maupassant's story "Une partie de campagne," Jean Renoir's great 40-minute short film, known here as A Day in the Country (1936), is probably my favorite of all his works.

The film was supposedly intended to be included in a two-part feature, but Renoir couldn't secure funding for the second half. Nevertheless, it's one of his most beautiful films, and one in which he purposely aped his father's painting style.

A family of dopey Parisians takes a picnic in the country. A couple of country boys conspire to seduce the beautiful daughter Henriette (Sylvia Bataille) and her mother (Jeanne Marken) by giving their respective significant others fishing poles and sending them off down the river. Henriette shares a passionate moment that haunts her the rest of her life, even after she marries the doofus from the city.

Renoir weaves nature itself not just into the background, but between and within the characters and the story. (The city dwellers constantly marvel at it, talking about bugs and dirt as if they were miracles.)

For years, A Day in the Country was only available on imported DVDs or on a VHS tape. In 2015, the Criterion Collection released an astoundingly beautiful Blu-ray edition, bringing some luster back into the movie, and elevating its status. It comes with a rich selection of extras, including a filmed introduction by Renoir, an 89-minute documentary featuring outtakes and on-set footage, interviews, screen tests, and a video essay, as well as a liner notes booklet.

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