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This report is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Filming the Book David Arkell

Arguably the best short film ever made, Une Partie de Campagne, runs for 40 or 50 minutes according to who's counting, but Pauline Kael says firmly 3J More importantly, it is one of the few book-films that is better than its literary original.

Maupassant's 5,000-word story shows us a pleasantly absurd Paris family on their Sunday jaunt to the riverside, where they make contact with the cruel canotiers, one of whom seduces the daughter and ruins her life. A fairly normal hazard on the Seine in May, especially in the canotier stories of Guy de Maupassant who wrote, 'The essence of life is the smile of round female bottoms in the shadow of cosmic gloom'. But Jean Renoir gives the episode an altogether new depth and warmth. Whereas the author described the river sights and sounds as best he could, the film brings them to us in breath-taking close-up: a blade of grass, bending reeds, a glint of sun. It did not matter that the Seine was not the Seine but the Laing near Fontainebleau, and the heroine not just any girl next door but a darling of the Paris intellectuals called Sylvia Bataille.

Renoir is said to have chosen her for her voice and for his image of her in nineteenth-century costume, but he could have picked her for any number of reasons: she was the French girl of the moment personified. A friend of the Prévert brothers and mascot of the October movement, ...


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