The River ★★★★

At first, the acting of Renoir’s English feature threw me off: over-the-top and cartoonish at times, and seemingly too broad to be taken seriously. But it’s really the same style he indulges in throughout his canonical work—English just highlights the theatricality of the entire work in a way a non-French speaker might not realize. So once that hurdle is jumped through, there’s a fantastic coming of age story here. While it might seem like classic Othering of cultures to find an exotic land, it actually works through issues of boundaries, between wanting to be part of one type of society but actually being of another (rich-poor, girl-woman, young-old, and yes, Indian-White). I’ll leave Kurtis Hare’s capsule to make the better argument to explain that, but there is one sequence in particular that is a stunner, where near the end of the film, all the characters are napping, and Renoir does this small little tracking shot over each of them. I can’t help like this is what Paul Schrader was getting at in “Transcendental Style in Film,” where the meaning of the shots eludes the viewers first before that “transcendental style ‘works’ on a viewer.”

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