Thursday, January 22, 2015

The River

Two young lovers -- Henriette and Henri -- have a brief but intense tryst during a holiday in the country. Years later, for a moment, the two meet again; then she is called back to her real life by her inadequate husband. People do bold things and make mistakes. How can anyone tell which is which?

What is realistic in the story is the basic, pitiless understanding that this is the way of the world. Here the river is so much more than mere radiance. For ships that pass in the night, or in the day, the river is a facilitator without memory or morality. So this 40-minute movie needs only one brief reunion to measure the mistake, and the way in which the girl will never forget it. Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country (1936) becomes a work about memory, destiny, and time -- and a river that is always the same, always transient, like the present tense: beautiful but indifferent. A perfect subject for a moving picture.