Stage and Spectacle: Three Films by Jean Renoir: The Criterion
Toward the end of his career, director Jean Renoir indulged his lifelong affection for the theater in three films that literalize the consummately French "art of living." 1952's The Golden Coach (Le Carosse d'Or), Paris Cancan ('55), and Elena and Her Men (Elena et les Hommes) from '56 all play around with one of his favorite themes: life as theater. They celebrate the preeminent value of art and artistes, as well as life's inherent pretenses, theatricality, and ephemeralness. These films are Renoir's champagne-soaked response to Shakespeare's poor players who strut and fret their hour on life's stage before getting offed at the curtain line. Regarded by Renoir as "probably the greatest actress I have ever worked with," volcanic Anna Magnani is the daunting maypole at the center of The Golden Coach. French Cancan is all about Jean Gabin, who Renoir had worked with throughout his career. Renoir would be the first to tell you that Ingrid Bergman was raison d'être enough for him to make Elena and Her Men.
Criterion's Stage and Spectacle: Three Films by Jean Renoir, gathers Renoir's interpretations of "all the world's a stage" into a three-DVD collection that bears all the hallmarks we associate with Criterion. The films are well presented (Elena and Her Men was struck directly from the camera negative) and each comes accompanied by quality extras. The Golden Coach is here in the English-language version that Renoir preferred. French Cancan and Elena have received "new and improved" English subtitles. Among the extras are introductions by Renoir, introductions by Martin Scorcese and Peter Bogdanovich, the interview documentary Jean Renoir parle de son art in three parts, David Thompson's 1993 BBC documentary Jean Renoir - Hollywood and Beyond, and an interview with set designer Max Douy, and text essays in foldout inserts. Three keep-cases in a cardboard box.