Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
I decided for this year's DVD Talk Criterion Challenge that I wanted to watch all of one of the celebrity Top 10 lists on their site. After careful consideration, I settled on Martin Scorsese's Top 10. The River is actually third on the list, but I erroneously skipped it and watched Ugetsu instead.
Films like The River vex me. I can appreciate them on a technical level; Scorsese and essayists Alexander Sesonske and Ian Christie all laud how visually spectacular the film looks. Yes, The River is dazzling eye candy.
And yet, though Jean Renoir consciously avoided such exoticism as elephants and tiger safaris, there is an unmistakably paternalistic, colonial perspective throughout the film. This is not India as it was; it's India as remembered by an outsider who came of age there.
As a coming of age story, The River is likable enough, though routine. Patricia Walters as Harriet has some nice scenes, but then there are other scenes that feel lifted directly from an episode of The Brady Bunch. I could practically hear her stomping and yelling, "Valerie, Valerie, Valerie!" after witnessing her rival with Captain John.
The River's great appeal is in its lush creation of a cinematic world, and for those who are content to look at its pretty pictures, I'm sure it's quite satisfying. While I appreciate such elements myself, the absence of any real character development or depth, coupled with the bothersome outsider's view of India detract too much for me.
How The River Entered My Flickchart
The River < The Perfect Storm --> #1645
The River > 8 Ball Bunny --> #1239
The River < Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer --> #1239
The River < Date Night --> #1239
The River > There Was a Father --> #1187
The River < Lick the Star --> #1187
The River < Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB --> #1187
The River > Princess of Mars --> #1180
The River > Oliver and Company --> #1177
The River > An American Tail: Fievel Goes West --> #1176
The River > This Is Spinal Tap --> #1175
The River entered my Flickchart at #1175/1652