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Homage to the Cinémathèque Française

Friday, March 6, 1987
Le Tournoi dans la cité (The Tournament)

Bruce Loeb on Piano Renoir's rare excursion into the period spectacular is set in 1565, when Catherine de Medici attempted to maintain power in the balance of unease between Protestants and Catholics. Aldo Nadi stars as the cruel Protestant leader De Baynes, who provokes his Catholic adversary Henri de Rogier to a duel during a visit by Catherine to Carcassone. Although Renoir confessed an aversion to the "pageantry" genre, he took the opportunity to invent some bravura camera strokes (including at least one magnificently conceived tracking shot) and invested the film with an impressive realism of place (shooting the exteriors in Carcassone), historical detail, and psychology. The highlight of the film is its beautifully staged tournaments and jousts, for which Renoir employed the members of the famous riding school in Samour. Critic Raymond Durgnat, comparing Renoir's approach to that of Dreyer (as opposed to the romanticism of Gance, for example), writes: "Le Tournoi endows period iron-mongery with a curiously modern, functionalist air...quite without antiquarianism... The acting establishes the appropriate emotions with an informal grace quite different from the stiffness too often offered as period dignity."

• Directed by Jean Renoir. Written by Henri Dupuy-Mazuel, André Jaeger-Schmidt, based on the novel by Dupuy-Mazuel, adapted by Renoir. Photographed by Marcel Lucien, Maurice Desfassiaux. With Aldo Nadi, Jackie Monnier, Enrique Rivero, Blanche Bernis. (1929, 110 mins (22 fps), Silent with French intertitles and live English translation, Piano accompaniment by Bruce Loeb, 35mm)