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Catherine, or A Life Without Joy
(Catherine ou Une vie sans joie)

Live Musical Accompaniment
Directed by Albert Dieudonné and Jean Renoir.
With Catherine Hessling, Albert Dieudonné, Eugénie Nau.
France, 1924, digital video, black & white, silent, 84 min.
English intertitles.

The first film on which Renoir worked is a melodrama in which the title character is a servant in a provincial town who provokes a scandal by falling in love with her employer’s son. Renoir conceived the film as a vehicle for his wife, whose screen name was Catherine Hessling. He acted as scenarist and producer, hiring the more experienced Albert Dieudonné to direct. However, he found it difficult simply to observe Dieudonné, becoming more and more involved in the actual filmmaking. Ultimately, the collaboration pleased neither party: Dieudonné resented Renoir’s claims to at least partial directorship, while Renoir was dissatisfied with Dieudonné’s editing of the final version. In any case, Catherine contains some fine location shooting, which contributes greatly to an exciting chase sequence at the climax.

Live Musical Accompaniment by Bertrand Laurence

PRECEDED BY

  • Charleston Parade (Sur un air de Charleston)

    Directed by Jean Renoir.
    With Catherine Hessling, Johnny Hudgins, Jean Renoir.
    France, 1927, 35mm, black & white, silent, 25 min.
    French intertitles with English subtitles.
    Print source: British Film Institute

The year is 2028, and an African explorer heads north to barbaric Europe, where he discovers a savage white woman living in the ruins of Paris. Renoir indulges his early love of special effects (reverse imagery, slow and fast motion) and the fantastic in this startling medium-length film that attempts to satirize the French modern-colonialist vogue for all things African by reversing the racial and sexual polarities of the binary logic that defines civilization by distinguishing it from the “primitive.” 

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