Day 120: ‘The Southerner’ 1945

‘The Southerner’ 1945

Watched The Southerner (1945), the ninth Jean Renoir film. A film made during his Hollywood years 1940-1948. It’s a very interesting film which follows The Rules of the Game (1939 – French), Swamp Water (1941 – 1st Hollywood film) and This Land is Mine (1943 – 2nd Hollywood film); which was followed by The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946 – 4th) and The Woman on the Beach (1947 – 5th and last).

The name of the production company is Producing Artists and the film is A Jean Renoir Production. The film is credited at the end as being distributed by United Artists, who also distributed The River (1951).

The Southerner is both a stock-standard low-budget mid-40s Hollywood film and an insightful. It would be so interesting to know what parts of the film Renoir’s and what parts were were imposed. It feels very natural, and the use of mid-level actors makes it fresh. It starts with a style that I associate with a film like the very spare, Tortilla Flats.

The acting style ranges from being similar to performances in earlier films to the more restrained performances of later films. The story has almost no humour in it. So, whether to credit the bar scene and the wedding celebration to him, with its rambunctious, over-the-top craziness or to someone telling him to add some life to a deadly-dull story of a farmer living the hard life on the land with his family against the odds.

The cinematography is still wide and revealing but the look of the film is washed out (and it could be the print I watched. The outdoor scene often lacked enough contrast to even see the sky). A scene with (possibly back projection) the grandmother sitting on the truck at least shows a sky – with clouds. The look of the film is very disappointing.

The music neither stamps any discernible style I’ve noticed or is revealing of anything more than the one-dimensional. It’s certainly not a Hollywood style (except for the scene in the bar, with bottles flying everywhere).

Finally, the film has everything go badly for the farmer and it certainly follows the tried and true formula of things going badly, followed by an immediate upbeat ending, where it is satisfying that when Tucker doubts himself, his wife and grandmother – for the first time doing anything that isn’t negative – roll up their sleeves and get dirty fixing up the place, following the storm.

Despite the optimism, the sanity lies with the cruel, selfish, neighbour who lost a wife and a child doing what Tucker is trying to do.