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A charismatic thief makes friends with a bankrupt baron who comes to live in the thief's slum. Meanwhile the thief seeks the love of a young woman, who is held emotionally captive by her slumlord family.
I just stumbled on this early and silent Renoir short (along with the delightfully bizarre 'Sur un air de Charleston') on a DVD of 'La Grand Illusion' and, really, I think I love it more even than that great film.
It's loosely based on 'The Little Match Girl' but owes as much to 'The Nutcracker'; a poor match-seller (played by Mrs. Renoir, the absolutely gorgeous and appealing Catherine Hessling, who can also be seen in 'Charleston'), overcome with hunger and cold, hallucinates the inhabitants of a toyshop window coming to life around her. I imagine the animation and other special effects must have been fairly pioneering - I'm certain they're more spellbinding than anything CGI could do - and the result is magical, enchanting, heartbreaking.
The version I saw had a haunting, note-perfect accordion soundtrack by Marc Perrone.
Much as I love his other work I could almost wish Renoir had gone on like this; I could wish cinema had gone on like this.
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