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A Day in the Country (Partie de Campagne), Blu-ray (1936/2015)

Director: Jean Renoir
Cast: Sylvia Bataille, Jane Marken, Georges D’Arnoux
Studio: Les Films du Pantheon/ The Criterion Collection 746 [2/10/15]
Video: 1.37:1 for 4:3 B&W
Audio: French PC mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: Intro by Jean Renoir (1962), “The Road to A Day in the Country” – interview with Renoir scholar, “Renoir at Work” – video essay on his methods, “Un tournage a la campagne” – 89-min. compilation of outtakes from the film (1994), Interview with producer Pierre Braunberger (1979), Illus. booklet with essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez
Length: 41 min.
Rating: ****

This little masterpiece was shot originally in 1936 and the film sat on the studio shelves during WWII and was edited into this form after the war in 1946, without the presence of Renoir, who was then making films in Hollywood. Renoir’s original idea was to make a really good 40-minute short, and that’s what the final film happens to be.

It’s based on a Guy de Maupassant short story about a family of Parisians having an outdoor picnic in 1860 in the French countryside, while the mother and daughter are being wooed by two local men. Not that much actually happens, but the way Renoir captured the similar environment to that of the impressionist painters, in black and white yet, is quite captivating. It is a warmly humanistic approach, showing Renoir’s love of nature and of people.

Some may feel this one is over-priced since it’s such a short film, and although the extras are worthwhile they’re not more important than the film itself. I think I requested this one because I had it mixed up with one of Renoir’s greatest films, Picnic on the Grass. The general idea is rather similar. (Grand Illusion is another one of his best.) The restoration work, as always with Criterion, is perfect.

—John Sunier