Picnic On the Grass

Picnic on the Grass is one of the last, neglected, and little-known works of the great French director Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game). This enchanting farce is definitely an old man’s film. It’s both assured and doddering, sensual and droll, but above all, wise. A pedantic biologist (Paul Meurisse), an enthusiastic proponent of artificial insemination, waves good-bye to science when he comes upon an innocent and voluptuous country girl (Catherine Rouvel) swimming naked in a lake. She loosens him up, and in the battle between science and nature-reason and feeling — guess which one comes out on top? Renoir shot the film on the estate of his father, the painter Pierre-Auguste, and it’s as beautiful as it is giddy, like a second childhood. The Elusive Corporal has its farcical elements too, as three French soldiers attempt to escape from a German World War II P.O.W. camp. And yet it’s rather blunt, plodding stuff, shockingly pale compared to Renoir’s own 1937 antiwar classic, La Grande Illusion. Sometimes even Homer nods. Here, he takes a whopper snooze. Picnic on the Grass: B+ The Elusive Corporal: C

Picnic On the Grass
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