A Day in the Country

Released:  1936

Cast:  Sylvia Bataille, Georges St. Saens, Jane Marken, Andre Gabriello, Jacques B. Brunius, Paul Temps

SUMMARY:  In 1860, Parisian shopkeeper Monsieur DuFour (Andre Gabriello) decides to take his family — his wife Juliette (Jane Marken), daughter Henriette (Sylvia Bataille), mother-in-law, and assistant Anatole (Paul Temps) — for a day in the country.  Dimwitted Anatole is also DuFour’s future son-in-law, since a marriage has been arranged between him and Henriette.  Partway through their journey, the family decides to stop at a country restaurant and have lunch.  Also at the restaurant are two local men, Henri (Georges St. Saens) and Rodolphe (Jacques B. Brunius); Rodolphe takes an immediate liking to Henriette, and persuades Henri to help him.  When the Dufours go down to the river, the two men take their picnic spot, forcing an interaction when the family returns.  The men impress the Dufour women with their manners, but do not return until after the lunch is finished.  Then, they offer their fishing poles to Mr. Dufour and Anatole, while also offering to take the women on a boat ride down the river.  All of the Dufours agree wholeheartedly.  However, during their brief interactions, Henri has also become attracted to Henriette, and now manages to arrange things so that Henriette is riding in his boat, while her mother goes with Rodolphe.  Henri and Henriette stop on a bank, where they watch the birds for a few moments before passionately kissing.  On their way back to the restaurant, Henri asks Henriette when she will be able to come back; she replies that they only go into the country about once a year, and her father will not let her travel alone.  The family returns to Paris, and Anatole and Henriette get married.  An intertitle reveals that their marriage is dull and loveless.  Some years later, Henri returns to the same spot on the bank where he sat with Henriette.  He is surprised to find that Henriette and Anatole are also there.  Anatole is asleep, but Henriette sees Henri.  Her eyes fill with tears, but Anatole soon wakes up; Henri hides in the bushes as Anatole and Henriette leave.

MY TAKE:  This is considered a short film — it’s only about 40 minutes long.  However, the interesting thing is that this wasn’t how the movie was supposed to turn out.  Jean Renoir wrote and directed the film — he’s the son of the famed painter — but when the weather didn’t cooperate, he couldn’t finish filming.  For whatever reason, he didn’t come back at a later date and finish the movie:  the beginning intertitle says that Renoir was in the United States, suggesting that he may have left the film behind.  Ten years after filming, in the mid-40s, a producer released the footage as this movie, with a couple of intertitles to tie things together (presumably, the unfinished scenes would go there).  However, it wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1950, a full sixteen years after its creation.  It’s an interesting film, but I wouldn’t say it’s outstanding.  As a short film, it does get bonus points for having a recognizable story line, though.  Basically, a family goes out on a day-long vacation, and the engaged daughter falls for a local.  I was surprised that she didn’t even make an attempt to stay with Henri, since it’s blatantly obvious that there are no feelings between her and Anatole, from either side.  I’m also not sure if you could really fall in love with someone after spending a few hours together and hardly talking, but she clearly has more feelings for Henri than for Anatole.  For whatever reason, she doesn’t put up a fight, and marries the moron.  I even had a slight hope that she’d ditch the dope at the later date, and finally choose happiness with Henri, but again, she didn’t.  Apparently she likes being married to a dolt.  I’m not sure what the point of the film was, but I’ve seen a lot worse.



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