Martin O’Shaughnessy
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An uneven career
in Jean Renoir
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This chapter introduces Jean Renoir's life and his highly uneven career. It demarcates his vision of his films, craft and ideological evolution and draws substantially on his writings and interviews. Renoir was born in 1894 in Paris, and his first project was Catherine ou une vie sans joie for which he hired Albert Dieudonné to direct his wife. As he made films addressing different audiences with varying degrees of freedom in shifting production and socio-historical contexts, the chapter identifies the periods when the contextual factors remained relatively stable. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, mon père is the text most frequently drawn upon to fill in his early years. Renoir celebrated the popular commitment that led to the victory of the revolutionary armies against the Prussians at Valmy. His discussions of cinematic creativity during the Popular Front period are an intriguing blend of left-wing collectivism and inherited definitions of the creative process.

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