It's the story of a bourgeois Parisian family heading out to the country for an afternoon getaway (a pastime of the French upper crust that greatly annoys the provincial locals). Once there, the mother and her lovely daughter (who is engaged to a clueless buffoon at the behest of her family) become the object of admiration for country folk, two of whom invite the ladies for a canoe trip down the river. Along the way, the daughter finds herself drawn to her mustachioed suitor, who will give her an encounter she will remember for the rest of her life.
Renoir masterfully suggests not only the loss of the daughter's innocence (in a truly haunting closeup in which she looks directly into the camera), but also the wistful melancholy of the chance encounters of youth as time inevitably marches on. It may only be 40 minutes long, but Renoir is in top form here. It's hard to imagine this as a longer film, but one can't help but wonder - if A Day in the Country is this good in its truncated form, how major would it have been if Renoir had completed it? It's almost as big a "what if?" as the central question of the film, reflecting on what life could have been when those idyllic moments of the past are gone and cold, hard reality takes their place. We get a glimpse at the film that might have been on the Blu-Ray, which offers Criterion's usual wealth of extras, including outtakes that are longer than the film itself, as well as an insightful interview with Renoir scholar, Christopher Faulkner.
|Courtesy of The Criterion Collection.|
GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)
Special features include:
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Introduction by director Jean Renoir from 1962
- The Road to “A Day in the Country,” a new interview with Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner about the film’s production
- Renoir at Work, a new video essay by Faulkner on Renoir’s methods
- Un tournage à la campagne, an eighty-nine-minute 1994 compilation of outtakes from the film
- Interview with producer Pierre Braunberger from 1979 Screen tests
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez
Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.