Day in the Country, A / Partie de Campagne (1936)

“You men are all the same.”

Synopsis:
While spending the day in the countryside, an engaged young Parisian woman (Sylvia Bataille) and her mother (Jane Marken) are wooed by a pair of local workers (Georges D’Arnoux and Jacques Borel).

Genres:

Review:
Jean Renoir’s cinematic gem (based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant) effectively conveys a world of innocence and loss within a span of only forty minutes. While not much happens within the narrative — a family goes to the country for the day; a young woman engaged to an insipid clerk (Paul Temps) develops a powerful yet hopeless crush on a man from a different social class — Renoir manages to use these simple elements to show how prescribed our lives are, and how escaping from our normal existence for even a day can show us what we may be missing, but ultimately can’t have.

Because Henriette’s mother is also (happily) wooed on this fateful day, Renoir is able to skillfully present a lifetime conflated into one afternoon: while Henriette is young, emotional, and naive, the older Juliette sees her “fling” as a welcome (if temporary) break from her bourgeois existence; indeed, she considers it a game to try to cuckold her boring husband for the afternoon, keeping him busy with the faux-machismo of fishing while she pursues headier activities with a “real” man. In the end, however, life goes on as it inevitably will: the family returns to Paris; Henriette marries her clerk; and Rodolphe (D’Arnoux) is left behind as a mere memory of an alternate (yet ultimately impossible) existence.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sylvia Bataille as Henriette
    Sylvia Bataille
  • The touching interactions between Henriette and her older, wiser mother
    Mother and Daughter
  • Jacques Borel as the scheming womanizer who convinces his friend to join him in the seduction
    Borel
  • Effective metaphorical use of a calm, then teeming, river
    River
  • Beautiful black-and-white cinematography, showcasing pastoral existence in the countryside
    Pastoral

Must See?
Yes. This cinematic morsel is sure to be of interest to film fanatics.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Day in the Country, A / Partie de Campagne (1936)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see – though it will no doubt be of interest to those with a liking for classic French cinema.

    Personally, its charm is somewhat lost on me (though I appreciate the finer point brought out in the assessment). I get that it’s something of a meditation on flirtation and passion among the social classes but it didn’t engage me much.

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