The Testament of Dr. Cordelier
(Le Testament du docteur Cordelier)

Screening on Film
Directed by Jean Renoir.
With Jean-Louis Barrault, Michel Vitold, Teddy Bilis.
France, 1961, 35mm, black & white, 95 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: Institut Français

This loose adaptation and updating of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was Renoir’s first made-for-TV film. Jean-Louis Barrault (Children of Paradise) delivers a chilly and enigmatic performance as Dr. Cordelier/Opale in a film that was shot quickly, often using only single takes captured on multiple cameras. Renoir himself termed it “an experimental film arising out of my work in theatre.” A few years previously, Renoir had directed his first play and became enamored with the process. He resolved to free the actor from the tyranny of “the exasperating director’s cry of ‘cut!’” by filming with several cameras at a time and leaving it up to the performer as to when to stop the scene. The result was hailed by the Cahiers crew (Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol), but few others.

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