Although some of the stylistic choices in directing constrain, there are flourishes of Renoir's dominant stylistic system at work in Tire au Flanc (Shirkers). The opening shot of a close up on a painting is overtly tableau and the unilateral dollying back and forth from midground to foreground can induce motion sickness. In addition, the camera merely tilting and panning to reframe shots does little to construct the space of the diegesis. It is certainly a far cry from the long take mobile framing of Regle or M. Lange. However, Renoir is beginning to form his dominant stylistic system in this film. Characters stand in archways demarcating three layers to the staging of the shots while the camera allows obstructions at the edges of the frame to help construct a real sense of space. For those driven to understand Renoir as a humanist, Tire becomes a solid film-these. The military officer class is juxtaposed with the working class raw recruit, yet both suffer from unique and profound ineptitude. But is the film about an "I'm OK, you're OK" philosophy or is the film text purporting something more pragmatic and utilitarian? I conjecture that there is indeed a humanist impulse in this film. Human beings naturally fall into line and take on roles within systems structured around power, but they just as naturally resist, struggle with, struggle against and condemn such systems and adopted roles. Thus humans are compulsive creatures. But Renoir puts forward (in my own linguistic interpretation now) that "the worn out soldier sleeps heavy, while the worn out guard sleeps like a rock". And so people are activated by what interests them more (and most) and will be more-or-less inefficient when forced to do what is of no interest to them. As much as these observations, lessons and credos on human nature get a treatment through the film using the example of war, I do not believe that Renoir is necessarily looking to be exhaustive in his means. Perhaps, this idea of creative freedom ("toujours le poete" ) was Renoir's method of communicating with other sectors of the film industry. Although, the French film industry formed into a cottage industry (as opposed to a studio system), there would surely have been a lot of resistance and shuffling around of professional alliances at the level of production and distribution during the time when Renoir was directing his first set of films. In Hollywood today, there is no real pressure on the creativity of the director or screenwriter because there are clear expectations of toeing a line formed and enforced by the economics and business of the industry (and if you don't like it, go indie), however, France at this time may have been struggling to understand the boundaries and realms of art and business within the medium of film. All my conjecture and supposition aside, there are some final interesting points to be made about Tire au Flanc... unique extreme long shots that defy tableau definitions but also defy strict character psych-pov (perhaps shots like these are the roots of Renoir's dominant stylistic system showing), a film bereft of french impressionist film editing techniques, ambiguous pov shots which are at times obtrusively constructing space and of course the spectacle of a young-ish Michel Simon in drag (a rare treat!).
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