The River

(Dye-transfer print) | (Technicolor-Druckverfahren)
A story of first love and premature death along the Ganges. The daughters of three Anglo families living in India are thrown into turmoil by a shared crush on a visiting American war veteran. This rather melancholy reminiscence of youth is told from the point of view of budding poet Harriet, who is grieving for her younger brother, killed in an accident … The welcoming rice powder floor painting that opens the film is an immediate clue to where the director is headed. Shot entirely on location in India’s Bengal region, Renoir intended The River to present an authentic picture of India in all its colour. That anthropological approach resulted in warm, muted hues that highlight the blue dancer in the dream sequence, with the full range of the palette emerging during the colourful Hindu festival scenes. Renoir attached importance to clean colours; he rejected special filters or post-production tinting. He said that the colours in India were not strong, even when they were unmixed; the green and red of the Indian flag were different from the green and red of other nations’ flags, and that “yielded one of the purest, richest, most touching works in the history of cinema” (André Bazin).
by Jean Renoir
with Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight, Arthur Shields
USA 1951 99’