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JEAN RENOIR: A Biography
Bibliophile price: £3.50
Hailed by his friend and contemporary Orson Welles as "very probably the greatest of all directors", Jean Renoir was the son of the Impressionist painter and grew up in turn-of-the-century artistic circles, even remembering the novelist Zola, who brought him sweets as a child. Born in 1894, Renoir's life extended through most of the 20th century, and his career covered the move from silent to talking films and embraced the cataclysmic post-war reaction against the Communist Party, which Renoir joined in the thirties, though he was also a regular attender at Catholic Mass. Renoir's two greatest films, Grand Illusions and The Rules of the Game, are both from the late thirties, emerging from political upheaval and approaching war. Renoir's private life was as eventful as his films. His first wife Catherine Hessling had been his father's model, and their divorce was followed by a partnership with Marguerites Houlle who shared his politics and profession. Finally Dido Freire took charge of him, accompanying him to America in 1941, while a visit to India in the fifties changed his life and art yet again. Renoir lived for the moment, anxious to please his friends, a chameleon with the gift of bringing people together in collaborative work. "A filmmaker is an opportunist", and this exhaustive biography details the ideas Renoir took from novels, paintings, films and friends to make works of art as diverse as The Diary of a Chambermaid and the India-inspired The River. A huge 942pp, paperback, photos. One letter photographed says "Tonight Benito Mussolini himself is going to screen Grand Illusion. I'm very proud of this."

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