That was to be Renoir's last work.Renoir,as anyone past infancy should know,was one of the greatest names of the French cinema.Oddly his last work was MTV:even stranger the copy I own is "letterbox" .This format was not used for MTV films before the nineties.
A film made up of sketches,which was more his colleague Julien Duvivier's field.This is a spotty minor work.The director himself appears (but he does not play ,as he did,in notably "la Règle du Jeu" ) and presents,a la Sacha Guitry ,his stories and his actors.The presence of a theater in miniature is not unlike the beginning of his 1931 masterwork "La Chienne" .
Segment one:"Le Dernier Réveillon" or back to Andersen;during the silent era,one of Renoir's best achievements was his stunning treatment of HC Andersen's "La Petite Fille aux Allumettes" .This short is a modern update of the tale.Average.
Segment two:"La Cireuse Electrique" or down with modern technology!This sketch is marred by frequent appearances of a (Greek?) chorus singing appalling tunes ,recalling the worst musical parts of René Clair's comedies of the early thirties such as "Le Million".And however the sketch -you can use your fast forward button for the "songs"- is probably the best of the lot.Marguerite Cassan is very funny as the perfect housewife (a Stepford one?) whose only love seems to be her floor,and whose only desire is to own a floor polisher.When her hubby comes back from work with a promotion,her only thought is that being richer,they can afford that domestic appliance.
Actually the segment displays Renoir's disgust for modern life ,for new ideas (also blatant in the first sketch),for revolution (this was made two years after 1968).It's surprising that the same man did "La Chienne" "Boudu Sauvé des Eaux" or "Le Crime de Monsieur Lange" .
Segment three : "Quand l'Amour Meurt" or Intermezzo.Jeanne Moreau sings one song .Not really exciting.
Segment four: "Le Roi D'Yvetot" or back to Marcel Pagnol.In 1934,Renoir made "Toni " ,a film produced by Pagnol with the Provençal director's actors.This final segment is updated Pagnol : besides,Fernand Sardou resembles Raimu -whom Renoir never directed-,and the story revolves around Pétanque and Ménage à Trois.It never really takes off.
Although he was always praised by the Cahiers du Cinema,Renoir's decline was obvious in the sixties and "Le Petit Theatre" is finally a disappointment after such a brilliant career.