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
As moving pictures became a reality during 1895-6, Europe's crowned heads discovered the new medium and what it could do for their image. The earliest royal films made in Britain showed Victoria's extended family with a new informality, and were eagerly viewed by their subjects. However, it was the staging of Victoria's 1897 Diamond Jubilee as a vast procession through London, filmed by 18 companies whose products were distributed throughout Britain and the distant territories of the Empire, that showed how powerfully film could project the monarchy in a new way - immediate, accessible and impressive. Victoria's successors, her sons Edward and George, came to the throne having grasped the potential of film. Meanwhile, two of her relations Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas, were also the subjects of early filming Nicholas's coronation in 1896 was the first such event to be recorded on film, but a record of the disaster that followed, when thousands were killed in a crowd panic, was quickly suppressed. Nicholas would remain suspicious of film as a mass medium, while enjoying it as a private family record, until he gave permission for a film to celebrate the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913 - the same year that a full-scale acted tribute to Victoria, Sixty Years a Queen, appeared.