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Madame Bovary

Screening on Film
Directed by Jean Renoir.
With Valentine Tessier, Pierre Renoir, Alice Tissot.
France, 1934, 35mm, black & white, 101 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: Museum of Modern Art

After Nana, it was only fitting that Renoir would adapt the novel that helped turn French realist fiction towards Zola’s edgier naturalism. Renoir faithfully adapted Flaubert’s tale of the provincial bourgeois housewife whose boredom leads her into infidelity and downfall. Searching for a counterpart to Flaubert’s prose that dramatized his heroine’s illusions for his readers, Renoir put his actors in settings as lifelike as possible and then gave them an extremely stylized text, often close to the original novel, with free reign to act broadly. The result is a perfect balancing act between Renoir’s loves of both realism and theatricality, one that does justice both to Flaubert’s text and Emma Bovary’s Romantic illusions. 

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