La vie est à nous is unique in Renoir’s oeuvrein that it is not a narrative film but a mixture of film essay, fiction and documentary meant to bring to the screen the political concerns and hopes of the working class as the French Communist Party conceived of them during the heyday of the Popular Front. The Party commissioned Renoir to make the film, and he enthusiastically accepted. The film is ingeniously constructed in episodes that alternate between documentary and narrative while also including humorous interludes and sections of direct address. The whole is meant to lay out a series of social contradictions and then to suggest solutions to them—a sort of vast montage.
Salute to FranceDirected by Jean Renoir and Garson Kanin.
With Claude Dauphin, Garson Kanin, Burgess Meredith.
US, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 34 min.
Print source: National Archives
During World War II (and with his son fighting as an American soldier in the Pacific), Renoir petitioned the US government, without success, to be considered as a director of the kind of propaganda films that Capra, Ford and many others were directing. He finally got his chance at the suggestion of Burgess Meredith, who was helping to produce a short to acquaint US troops with the culture of France, a country they would soon be called upon to liberate. Renoir shot the fictional parts of the film, about three soldiers, one American, one British and one French, but did not take part in the editing, which injects plenty of historical footage.