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|Index||34 reviews in total|
This is a little known film, but well worth watching if you're lucky
to find it on Video or TV. The director Jean Renoir is the son of the
Impressionist Painter Pierre Auguste Renoir ( the cinematographer Claude
Renoir is Jean's nephew ) and the family talent shines throughout this
which is beautifully shot. Whether showing the amazing landscape of India
and the river itself, the colours and intricacies of the many Indian
festivals, or even a close up of Valerie's face as she gazes at Captain
John, every frame displays grace, beauty and style that film rarely
The plot itself, how a troubled outsider affects three teenaged girls, is a simple tale, and all the more powerful for it. We've all had a crush, and know the river of emotions that are awakened by one. Each of the three girls, the irrepressible and dramatic Valerie, the talented but awkward Harriet, and the stoic Melanie ( who despite schooling in the West is somehow more Indian in nature than her friends who've been brought up in India ) vie for Captain John's affections in their own way.
However, the real love of this film is India itself - it's fascinating people, beliefs, festivals, and the constant River that runs through them all. It's a slow paced film, not in a hurry to get to any kind of conclusion, and you are immersed in the country, and what it's like to live there. Like relaxing on one of the many river boats, as its floats gently downstream, the film meanders along, showing us different scenes along the way, from the local postman's route to the house gates to the son's fascination with Cobras, with the story always moving on, though always interwoven with more day to day life. This brings a familiar reality to the film, it doesn't just skip moments that might not immediately concern the main characters - like life, other events happen, and they have their place in this film too.
Actually getting to watch this film will be hard, it's not well known ( and not even considered one of Renoir's best ), but if you ever come home one night, flick on the TV, and see this starting, then get comfortable, and enjoy a lovingly made film about a country and the people, both native and foreigners, who live there.
It's difficult to argue with Gabridl's remarks about the film - and I'm
sure Renoir would have pleaded guilty as charged. Of not making a
civics lesson. So, if that's what you want out of art, then this is not
the film for you. At all. You will learn nothing of Indian politics,
the "exoticism" will drive you mad, and you'd do better to go back and
re-read Said's "Orientalism," as Gabridl suggests.
Renoir went to India, and made a film from the perspective of an entranced outsider looking in, creating his own, personalized world - not India, but Renoir's world, where everything is transitory, including beauty and death, and where every sight and sound becomes that much more precious.
I am glad that we have come so far since I've been a kid, when so many ideas and prejudices carried over from the colonial era were still floating through the air, and it's true that no one except that most naive among us would make a film like THE RIVER today. But Renoir was alive in 1950, not now, and he made his film for his time, and that time attaches itself to the film, just like it does to every artwork. I doubt that even Gabridl would suggest that it was the work of a craven exploiter of the masses, and that its "faults" are not the faults of a corrupt man, but of a generous and compassionate one. It's one of the most generous films I know of.
Finally, I would add that while this is a film made by a westerner for other westerners, it was certainly inspirational to Satyajit Ray, who worked as Renoir's assistant.
This is one of those rare films which give you the impression after viewing
it that you have truly lived and shared the lives of its characters (not
just 'two people received that kiss', as they say in the film, but everyone
who's watching the movie).
You became part of that river as the film progresses, it is perhaps the picture which has described the passage of time better than any other. It is life, running within its waters, that catches your soul, which melts with the river and the film and your memory...
I think it is the only movie that made me run to a bookstore to buy the book it was based on. Rumer Godden's work is beautiful indeed, but the film is far better for me.
After a family tragedy, an adolescent girl blurts out angrily at the
dinner table, "We just go on as if nothing has happened". "No", her
mother responds, "we just go on". The River, Jean Renoir's first color
film, is about going on -- the ebb and flow of life that mirrors the
path of the sacred river Ganges that flows nearby. Filmed on location
in India, The River is a sumptuously beautiful film that was called by
Martin Scorsese ""one of the two most beautiful color films ever made"
and one of his "most formative movie experiences." The film has been
brought to life magnificently in a new Criterion DVD that contains an
introduction by Jean Renoir, an interview with Scorsese, and a
biography of author Rumer Godden, who grew up in India and whose work
formed the basis for Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus (1947).
Set in India at the time of independence, its themes are universal: the feeling of being an outsider, of running away from unpleasant situations, and the hopelessly romantic stirring of adolescent love. While the film reflects the point of view of a British colonial family, it is respectful of the surrounding culture and pays homage to Hindu and Buddhist traditions through stories, documentary footage, and dance sequences. Harriet (Patricia Walters) is the adult narrator who looks back on her days as an adolescent. About thirteen in the film, she lives with her four sisters and brother Bogey in a colonial house in India that looks out upon the Ganges. Renoir's camera captures the energy and rhythm of life on the river: its peddlers, ships, markets, people coming and going, the crowds, everything in constant motion juxtaposed with the timeless tranquility of the river.
Harriet's father (Esmond Knight) who lost an eye during the war, runs a jute manufacturing plant while his pregnant wife (Nora Swinburne) takes care of the house, assisted by governess Nan (Suprova Mukerjee). When a young American named Captain John (Thomas E. Breen) comes to visit his cousin Mr. John (Arthur Shields) after losing his leg in the war, his dreams of being left alone are short lived. Harriet becomes infatuated with Captain John but has to contend with two other female admirers: her older friend Valerie (Adrienne Corri), a flaming redhead, and Mr. John's daughter Melanie (Radha Shri Ram), a young woman of mixed ethnicity who was born in India but reared in a British boarding school. The arrival of Captain John brings a clear signal that the girls must face the end of what has been an idyllic childhood.
All feel like outsiders: Melanie is caught between two cultures and questions whether she will ever fit into either, Harriet expresses her adolescent longings in idealistic poetry, Valerie is overwhelmed by her innocent desires, and Captain John is a deeply troubled man who only wants to live a normal life. Although the acting can be a bit wooden especially during peak dramatic moments, it does not detract from the film's authenticity. The River is definitely of its time and its attitudes towards women are dated, yet it is a work that transcends time and place to capture universal emotions. It is a great film that can be relished over and over again with increasing appreciation.
There is something special about this movie. In fact, to say there is something special does not tell much, and it could be equally applied to hundreds of films which are much less special than this. So let's start again. I had never seen a film like "The River" before. Thanks to the Spanish TV program "Qué grande es el cine" I discovered this piece of Art created by a major artist: Renoir. Some of my other favourite movies are similar in some aspects to others. And so, "North by Northwest" resembles other thrillers with Cary Grant; "A Touch of Evil" is a moral fable and also a nightmare which reminds a bit of "The Night of the Hunter", and so on. But "The River" reminds me of nothing I have seen on a screen. It has to do with ethics and with life. It has to do with balance, with understanding human nature. I think this film has everything which can be told in a film. Absolutely everything. I believe this film reflects an attitude towards life and towards art. So I got it finally! This film is if anything an attitude. Once you have seen, you feel better, you know more about life, your perspective has changed. It is a ray of light. I should be compulsory in High School and everywhere.
A really glorious, spellbinding movie. Filmed in Bengal, India, on the
Ganges, it captures the essence of India, the timeless quality of life
on the Ganges, without being patronizing.
This is a coming of age movie about three teenage girls, two British and one Anglo-Indian, and how their lives are affected by the arrival of a one-legged American war veteran. It's very easy to fall into sentimentality in a movie like this, but Renoir avoids this obvious pitfall. Though I have to say, I found this film very moving.
It helps that this movie is filmed in Technicolor, and is one of the best uses of Technicolor of that era.
Some of the performers were amateurs, including the actor who played the veteran and some of the children, but overall the performances are outstanding. A fine, low-key performance by Esmond Knight. This was the only film for Patricia Walters, who played Harriet, and Thomas Breen, the war veteran who played Captain Jack, never made any other movies. Watch for Arthur Shields, the brilliant Irish actor, as father of Nan.
I believe that both Karina and Gabridl are slightly off when they say
that the film is supposed to depict post-independence India. I don't
believe this is true and, therefore, Renoir cannot be taken to task for
not covering India's independence struggles. Although the film was made
post-independence (1951), it does not cover the period of independence
itself (late 1930s to actual independence in 1947). Remember, that the
film is a "memory film" and is based on the autobiography of Rumer
Godden, who was born in 1907. The adult narrator is a grown-up Harriet.
A grown-up Harriet in 1951 would be speaking of an earlier
time--probably sometime in the 1920s--that was a more peaceful time for
the English colonial inhabitants. The clothing and hairstyles can't be
used to indicate when the film takes place. Harriet's blue sack of a
dress would have been worn by any 13 year-old girl from the 1920
through the 1940s. And Valerie's rather unkempt and flowing hair could
be anytime, too.
As for Melanie having an Indian accent. I don't believe that it was ever said that Melanie was educated in England. I believe that the film says she was educated in a convent, and there were certainly convent schools in India in the 1920s. I find it interesting that when it is said that Melanie will probably marry Anil, an understanding that they have had since childhood, she is still wearing her convent uniform. When she develops a crush on Captain John, she starts to wear saris, maybe hoping to attract him through the exotic.
All in all, a beautiful, lyrical film that should not be missed.
I rated this film 9 instead of 10 because of its slow start and because of some of the acting. But what a movie! I don't think it's an accident that Renoir is the son of the great impressionist painter, because in this film, he uses the screen as a canvas. The shot of Valerie standing in midscreen with the green pond and foliage behind her is indescribably beautiful. Moreover, the sensuousness achieved here is rare in film. I felt that I was in India 50 years ago, so skilled was Renoir in being able to absorb the viewer into the film. A real find!
Wow. What a special film this was! On the surface so basic but underneath a deeply spiritual and satisfying adventure... I cannot say enough about the color, and the process used, something Martin Scorsese talks about in length during an interview on the Criterion disc. To him, along with the Red Shoes, this is the most beautiful color film ever made, and I would have to agree with him. A shot of an orange tree stands out in my mind towards the end, it sways in the wind against a bright blue background, and it gave me goosebumps all over my body. The film plays very much like a dream, beneath somewhat mediocre acting and story, but I won't get into that, because I didn't feel as though that mattered as much as the overall feeling and purpose the film left with me afterwards... Some people I was with really didn't respond to it the way I did, but I think you have to enjoy it on a different level or it has the potential to fail, but when I saw it I found it a great, great masterpiece, better than any other Renoir film I have ever seen (I know Rules of the Game is considered his greatest, but that doesn't stand next to this at all in my mind). See it also for the beautiful cinematography of the culture of India during colonial rule, which has all but transformed by now.
In Bengal, India, the teenager Harriet (Patricia Walters) is the oldest
daughter of a British family composed by her father (Esmond Knight)
that lost one eye in the war and is the manager of a jute factory; her
mother (Nora Swinburne) that is pregnant; and her four younger sisters
and one little brother. They have a quiet and comfortable life living
in a big house nearby the Ganges River. Valerie (Adrienne Corri) is the
teenage daughter the owner of the jute factory where Harriet's father
works that spends most of her time with Harriet. Melanie is the
British-Indian daughter of Harriet's neighbor Mr. John (Arthur Shields)
that has just returned from an education in England. When the young
American Captain John (Thomas E. Breen) that lost one of his legs in
the war comes to Bengal to visit his cousin Mr. John, the three
teenagers fall in love for him.
"The River" is a story of first love in the exotic India and metaphorically compares the Ganges River with the flow of life with the lead character leaving her childhood and becoming an adolescent. The screenplay of this romance has many beautiful quotes, but excessive narrative from a grown-up Harriet. The cinematography is stunning, with the use of bright colors in the environment of India. Thomas E. Breen performs an outcast character that has a great complex due to the loss of one of his legs but he does not transmit this feeling to the audience. The red-haired Adrienne Corri is a very beautiful young woman that gives credibility to her sixteen year-old character. The Brazilian DVD was released by Continental Distributor. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "O Rio Sagrado" ("The Sacred River")
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