Renoir and von Stroheim
While we know Renoir influenced countless filmmakers and movements, Renoir’s own style was also influenced by other filmmakers. In particular, in 1922, Renoir saw Erich von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives. After watching the film repeatedly, Renoir said that he finally understood how the realism of natural gestures and images could represent the “national tradition” of France in subtle ways. Borrowing von Stroheim’s used of long takes with no edits, Renoir’s believed he could force the audience to truly watch the screen, thereby capturing the essence of Frenchness. Von Stroheim’s influence prove ironic in La Grande Illusion.
After his directing career died out, von Stroheim turned to acting. Renoir cast von Stroheim as Captain von Rauffenstein, where it was apparent that the master had been surpassed greatly by the student (Jackson, 24). For Hollywood film fans, von Stroheim is instantly recognizable as Billy Wilder’s Max in the dark film noir masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Sources consulted: Jackson, 13-14; Macdonald, 154.