The River (1951, Jean Renoir)

Postcolonial Wednesday, part one. I loved everything about the movie, but Katy didn’t like it because of its colonialist politics.

Based on a Rumer Godden novel, and she was on set during filming. Harriet is a young aspiring poet, who thinks she knows all about India… neighbor Valerie is the daughter of a rich American… and neighbor Melanie is half-Indian with an American father (Mr. John) trying to maintain both her American and Indian heritage. One day Captain John shows up and they all fall for him, though Melania tries to hide it. Oh and Harriet’s little brother Bogey has an unhealthy (and eventually fatal) interest in animals, especially poisonous snakes.

A gorgeous movie, looked great on the big screen. Life/death/love/loss themes throughout, all loosely tied (by Harriet more than by the Indians) to the river. The dream sequence told by Melanie (featuring two Indian gods and some dancing) is so great it even impressed Katy. Renoir movies make me feel more alive.

Harriet’s father, Esmond Knight, was in some Powell/Pressburger movies. Most of the other actors were in plenty of other films, except the nanny “Nan” who was in one more IMDB-credited movie… and Harriet, who never was in another movie, and died from cancer in 1967. Her real dad, a comic movie star in the early 30’s, died three weeks later.

CONTEXT: Jean Renoir made The River semi-independently in India after his Hollywood period (Woman on the Beach, Diary of a Chambermaid, etc) and right before his return to France with the celebrated Coach / Cancan / Elena trio. Came out around the same time as Statues Also DieSamuel Fuller was getting started… Bunuel’s Olvidados, Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest… some good sci-fi was out in the States… Fritz Lang was making House by the River and Clash by Night and Ophuls had “Madame de…” and “Le Plaisir“.