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Toni

Director Jean Renoir demonstrates how to make a great film that draws nothing from prestige literary or theatrical sources but everything from life itself. Renoir based his script on a newspaper crime story whose details he found in police files. The results make for a stark yet sensual melodrama about love and sex, jealousy and murder. Toni (Charles Blavette) is an Italian immigrant who is married to Marie (Jenny Helia) but loves Josepha (Celia Montalvan), a married Spanish woman who in turn loves Gaby (Andrex). Tragedy threatens when Josepha kills her husband. Neither romanticising nor glorifying his characters, Renoir accepts them as they are and follows their unpredictable movements. Like many of the director’s films, it’s an exploration of freedom, a notion Renoir applies to the filmmaking process itself. For me, he said, Toni was an opportunity to escape the idiotic conformity typical of many people running our industry. In other words, it was the freedom of body and mind without which no one in the world can do a job.

France, 1934.
English subtitles.
Black and white.
100 mins.

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