I am velvety-smoothReview is BELOWI am veltely smooth, too
DVD: River, The (1951)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
...back to Index
P to R
Catalog #:
RIV060, Criterion 276
...or start from scratch
1 (NTSC)

March 1, 2005



Genre: Drama  
Based on Rumer Godden's novel, set in India, the growing pains of three young women are contrasted by the immutability of the holy Bengal River, around which their daily lives unfold.



Directed by:

Jean Renoir
Screenplay by: Jean Renoir,  Rumer Godden
Music by: M.A. Partha Sarathy
Produced by: Kenneth McEldowney

Nora Swinburne,  Esmond Knight,  Arthur Shields,  Suprova Mukerjee,  Thomas E. Breen,  Patricia Walters,  Radha,  Adrienne Corri,  Richard Foster,  Penelope Wilkinson,  Jane Harris,  Jennifer Harris,  Cecelia Wood,  Sajjan Singh,  Nimai Barik,  Trilak Jetley,  June Hillman

Film Length: 99 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.33 :1
Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:   English (Mono)
Subtitles:   English
Special Features :  

Introduction to the film by Jean Renoir (7:50, in French with English subtitles) / 1995 Documentary: "Rumer Godden: An Indian Affair" (58:41) / New Video Interview with Martin Scorsese, a key figure in the restoration (12:44) / 2000 audio interview with producer Ken McEldowney / Stills gallery with 116 images in 2 categories / New high-definition digital transfer with restored image and sound / Theatrical trailer for "The River" / 16 page colour booklet

Comments :

Winner of the International Award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival.

Though Jean Renoir had investigated the relationships between the culture of native peoples and the land (or water) that sustains and alternatively threatens their existence, "The River" marked several changes in Renoir's own career.

After the release of "Woman On The Beach" - a jumbled, studio-bound film noir, adversely affected by surgical edits after bad preview screenings - Renoir chose to revisit the land/people marriage in Rumer Godden's autobiographical novel, "The River." In his 1985 autobiography, art director Eugene Lourie recalled how Renoir had planned to shoot background plates in India and the rest of the movie at a Mississippi location - until an enterprising Hollywood florist, Ken McEldowney, got wind of the project, and wanted to make "The River" the first of four movies to be shot entirely on location.

The production woes that plagued the first Technicolor film made in India are extensively documented in a series of audio interviews with one-time movie producer McEldowney. Additional text notes bracket the historical materials in Criterion's superlative release, and director/film buff Martin Scorsese also appears in a sizable appendix, describing the sharp impression "The River" made on him, while still a youth in New York City.

The archived trailer reveals the distributor's aim in selling the movie as another Renoir 'masterpiece,' yet United Artists also shuffled scenes to create a false sense of a man caught up in several steamy relationships; the implication is hot sex, but the reality is a story about emotionally bruised and naïve people struggling to connect under varying degrees of physical and emotional displacement.

Freed from process shots and exterior sets within large Hollywood soundstages, a newly independent Renoir and his cameramen integrated a mix of travelogue panoramas, documentary montages, and fractured dramas; their attempt to evoke the stirrings and calm of the Ganges River, isn't wholly successful, but it explains the peculiarly dreamy quality of the film.

Like "The Red Shoes" and "Black Narcissus" (the latter film based on Godden's internationally successful novel), the mix of myth, cultural exotica, sexual tension, and unconventional Technicolor cinematography were key draws for Scorsese, and he defends the film as being far more than an idyllic reminiscences of an English girl interacting with locals, sheltered under the umbrella of British India.

Godden herself is seen in a slowly-paced, albeit visually rich documentary, from 1995. Revisiting India with her daughter for the first time in decades, Godden reveals herself to be more than the daughter of a Britisher; bucking familial expectations with her physicality and bullheaded determination, Godden's novels dealt with cultural taboos and characters deemed improper or embarrassing by the Establishment. Similar to her "River" characters, Godden herself never quite fit into either culture: a British single mother in love with Indian culture, the doc exploits her quandary as a traveler; never fully embraced by the English, nor Indians.

Criterion's DVD is loaded with plenty of archival goodies - including an intro segment with a deliciously idiosyncratic Renoir, interviewed by Jacques Rivette for a 20-film French TV retrospective - and lengthy essays in the colourful booklet.

Freed from the confines and exotic cliches imposed by Hollywood studios, "The River" marked a major career turn for Renoir and novice screenwriter Godden; it's still a strange mix of repressed conflicts and weirdly poetic dialogue, but the more humanistic depiction of native people sets the film apart from the usual tales of thuggery, tiger hunting, and indigenous, ignorant people blissfully happy in their servitude.


© 2005 Mark R. Hasan

_IMDB Entry________Script Online _________Fan/Official Film site________Cast/Crew Link
_IMDB Detailed Entry_______Scripts available online ________Fan/Official Film Site__________Additional Related Sites
____Amazon.com __________Amazon.ca _________Bay Street Video_______Comparisons_
__Amazon.com info____Amazon.com info____Basy Street Video info______Compare Different Region releases_
_Soundtrack CD__________CD Review__________LP Review__________Composer Filmog.
_________Soundtrack Review_______Yes, VINYL_________Soundtrack Review

Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author. Links to non-KQEK sites have been included for your convenience; KQEK is not responsible for their content nor their possible use of any pop-ups, cookies, or information gathering.