16. Jean Renoir (1894 – 1979)
Never did the worlds of art and film collide as closely—or literally—than in the work of Jean Renoir. Employing the same masterful visual stimuli as his father, Auguste Renoir, did in his paintings, Jean Renoir discovered that simple adjustments to lighting, location, focus and camera angle could add new and exciting dimensions to a film. Selling some of his father’s paintings to finance his work, Renoir was a renegade moviemaker—too far ahead of his time to be fully appreciated.
Though he’s best known for Grand Illusion, about a WWI prisoner camp, Renoir’s most powerful work was probably The Rules of the Game, a satirical take on a high-society country weekend, originating the vein in which films like The Celebration and Gosford Park have been created.
Says Slamdance Film Festival founder Peter Baxter: “Renoir is film’s great humanist. His perspective trapped the essence of the real world for the spectator—a human viewpoint that integrated actors, objects and space that expressed the relationship between individuals and society as one mutual tie-in.”