Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alain Renoir on his father,(Jean) Renoir

Alain Renoir was the son of the film director Jean Renoir. In the late 1930s while still a teenager Alain Renoir worked as an assistant cameraman for his father on The Rules of the Game and The Human Beast. He left for the United States during World War II and he became a professor of English at the University of California -- Berkeley. These are transcription from an interview he gave in 2003 for the Criterion DVD of The Rules of the Game.

from 11:00 to 13:35 in the interview.

"When the first World War broke out, my father was a career non-commissioned officer in the military, the French Calvary - the Dragoons. and some of the effect that he cavalry had upon him can be seen in his films. For instance, he repeated to me over and over again that in the cavalry their was no such thing as a white horse or a black horse -- it did not exist -- in the cavalry a white horse was a light gray horse and a black horse was a dark gray horse....Well, if you think for a second you can see that that applies to everything he did. You have nothing that is just straightforward and cut-and dried. People are always a little bit of this and a little bit of that."
"My father had a knack for getting people to do exactly what he wanted. Pretending for them and for himself that it was not the case. For instance, he would say to the actor, "This is wonderful, this is absolutely wonderful. But you know it may be fun to try something else. Never saying it was lousy. And eventually I knew damned well where it was going. It would be the same thing with his cameraman. He would say, "Oh this shot is wonderful. You know it might be interesting to try it in a slightly [inaudible]way". But he never told them that is what I want done."
"I will tell you an anecdote that for obvious reasons I will not give you the name. On one particular occasion, I had heard a certain actor spouting the movie and it was obviously totally wrong. Well that night I went back home and my father and I met at the door of the apartment and I said, "Oh dad, this guy I'll call him X said that-and-that. He completely doesn't understand the movie. I think you should tell him" And my father turned to me and said, "Don't you say a word to him. When an actor understands his part in a play or a movie, he can no longer play it."

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21 Comments:

Blogger Paul Martin said...

A nice post - those anecdotes are gems.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Dr. Menchaca said...

I had Professor Renoir for several courses at Cal. He was funny and supportive. I remember visiting him in office hours and noticing an original Renoir hanging. I asked "are you related?" and he said "Ah, it's just a scribbling after all". I'm sure the painting was worth a fortune. Anybody know what happened to Dr. Renoir?

2:04 PM  
Blogger Megan Foster said...

Dr.Renoir is my grandfather. i looked him up to see what people said about him because at the moment, he is "on his way out". Thanks for the little snippet of his life :) it helps to cope with the pain of loosing him.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Professor Renoir retired to the countryside west of UC Davis. I am sad to report that I learned today that Alain Renoir died last night after suffering a stroke a week,or so ago. He was charming, witty, and a vital man to the last. 12/13/08

4:29 PM  
Blogger pierre said...

I'm french and I met Alain several time years ago.I loved just listen to him to tell me all this stories, he was such a great man, one of his friend who was in Paris told the news about his death yesterday.I'm so sad he died.
Amen (Megan i'd like to talk to you if possible)

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Alain nearly all of my life and missed our semi-annual get togethers after he moved. I, too, was amazed at his nonchalant attitude whenever his father or grandfather were brought up. He kept a very good perspective about it. And, very few people I have ever come in contact with have made me laugh so hard as Alain did with his observations about nearly everything in life.

Hi Megan!!

Bill Gavce

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also had the great good fortune to have several courses with Professor Renior at UC. He was always an inspiring, supportive, and fascinating teacher.I am so very sorry to hear he is gone.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Caitlin Foster said...

Alain was my grandfather as well, and as Megan did, I also looked him up to see what was posted about him. I thank those of you who posted stories and quotes about him, when i read them i laughed and thought of all the times i would roll my eyes at the things he said or just sit there not quite knowing what he was talking about but just nod my head as if i understood or agreed. So thank you. It has been a hard few weeks with loosing him but i am happy he is no longer in pain.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I m from the village where Alain's father and grandfather are buried.Alain spent lot of time here when he was young before WW2.I met him several time and went to his home close to Davis.In the village there is still a women who knew Alain from chilhood and they were still in touch until recently.
Caitlin and Megan if you'd like me to ask this women about your grandfather or if you would come to France to this village where your great grandfather and your greatgreatgranfather are buried let me know (I think I briefly met your dad in 1995 at your granddad house he was probably with your brother , at that time i think he was around 11 years old ...)
hope to hear from you.
renoirvillage@hotmailcom

9:44 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I only had Dr. Renoir for one class but he was the best teacher I had at Berkeley. He was hilarious and the best story teller I ever knew. I remember what we read in class because on the anecdotes he told that related to passages of Milton or Swift. He told very moving stories not only about his life in France but also about his life in the U.S., including his experiences in the Pacific during World War II.

I loved talking to him and would always go to his office. I wasn't a very good student but he always welcomed me and lent me a few books. He had this great cartoon on his door of bunch of people crawling on the floor in a line each with their noses up the others ass. Underneath he wrote, "the academy on parade."

I ended up getting a PhD not in English, but in U.S. history and I teach a community college in Long Island, New York. I always think about him while I'm teaching my students. He was a tremendous influence and I will never forget him.

Dan Wishnoff

7:42 AM  
Anonymous John Ballon said...

I was lucky enough to spend the night at Alan and Pat's country house in Northern California, where he regaled me and my wife until the wee small hours with stories and quotes and silliness (and drinks). Over the course of the evening, I managed to draw out of him a truly remarkable story. Within weeks of arriving in the US, and at the suggestion of his father, he volunteered to fight in Second World War. He was sent to the Pacific, where he exhibited remarkable courage. Cut off and surrounded by Japanese forces in New Guinea, he ran through an artillery barrage to find help. A rescue force was sent, and his unit was saved from annihilation. Alan was many things, but among those should be counted war hero. It was a joy and an honor to have known him.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Neil A Kurtzman, MD said...

I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere about Professor Renoir, but he taught for a short while at Williams College. One of the courses he taught there was "Corrective Composition". It was for the freshmen who despite gaining admission to the prestigious college were nonetheless functionally illiterate. It was a not for credit course that these illiterates (I was one) were forced to take. Despite his heavy French accent Professor Renoir managed to convey the rudiments of English syntax and grammar that had eluded his students prior to matriculating at Williams. Though he obviously would rather have done something else, he did his best to help us understand that there should be a logic to a sentence.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Dr. Mike said...

Dear Megan and Caitlin,

I hope you find this thread again one day. I am the person I am today in part because Dr. Renoir was the person he was. He truthfully made a difference and I try to do the same with my students.

--Mike Menchaca, University of Hawaii

11:55 AM  
Anonymous caitlin foster said...

Mike,
Megan just told me about your post and i Just want to say thank you for your kind words. I check this blog from time to time and it is so nice to hear wonderful words such as yours. I think of my grandfather often and wish I had known him better but reading stories that people post is still great. I am glad he was so influential in your life.

Best,
Caitlin

11:34 PM  
Blogger nathan s said...

One afternoon, about 1965, after a late summer class, I was walking out of Dwinelle Hall. It was summer and I had spent the early part of the day painting rooms at Dr. tenBroeks's home in the Berkeley Hills. My clothes were multicolored and maybe even some paint in my hair. A professor was walking out with me and he asked if I were an art student. "No", I replied, "I work part time and came directly from work to class." He said his grandfather was painter. After we walked and talked a while, I told him my name was Nathan Spooner and he said his name was Dr. Renoir. What a gentleman.

10:35 PM  
Blogger nathan s said...

One afternoon, about 1965, after a late summer class, I was walking out of Dwinelle Hall. It was summer and I had spent the early part of the day painting rooms at Dr. tenBroeks's home in the Berkeley Hills. My clothes were multicolored and maybe even some paint in my hair. A professor was walking out with me and he asked if I were an art student. "No", I replied, "I work part time and came directly from work to class." He said his grandfather was painter. After we walked and talked a while, I told him my name was Nathan Spooner and he said his name was Dr. Renoir. What a gentleman.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Zulema Levine Seligsohn said...

I was in a Comp Lit class with Professor Renoir in 1966, and I am very heartened to have found this blog. No stories; I remember him as having few words but the exact ones, being very supportive and very inspiring and very warm. I have forgotten the names of some of my professors, but I always remember him. I wish I had heard him read Beowulf in the Old English original.

Thank you everyone for your memories, and especially Megan and Caitlin.

8:37 PM  
Blogger nathan s said...

I really like this post about a unique person who left me with such a lasting impression after a chance meeting one summer afternoon.

8:58 PM  
Blogger sandro t. said...

hoy es un dia muy importante para mi tengo en mis manos un reloj de bolsillo perteneciente al Sr. AUGUST RENOIR es hermoso

8:21 AM  
Blogger Mark Fuller said...

I was very fortunate to have taken his graduate course on Anglo Saxon at UC Berkeley. Professor Renoir let me enroll in it even though I was an undergraduate majoring in mathematics. He taught us how to read the original works out loud. His love and delight in the language was palpable. I can nearly remember what he sounded like. I will never forget his warmth, generosity, story-telling and humor. I remember when a famous colleague had just published his latest book, Professor Renoir said that most books are 90% or more full of b.s., but that this person's was better, maybe only 60% full of it...

6:11 PM  

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