The English: Jean Renoir’s “The English”

The English: Jean Renoir's "The English"

Emily Blunt finds the thrill of revenge in ‘The English’

There was sex and then there was sex, and the English actress found the former by the time she arrived at Cinéma Libre. “I’m here to have a good time and have a laugh. I didn’t know I was going to film the next hour,” she says.

“The English,” directed by the Oscar-winning Jean Renoir, is about the death of a father who had abandoned his family. In the film, which won the BAFTA for Best Foreign Film in 1972, the father-daughter romance is brought to an end by a series of violent acts committed by her father’s brother. “I think he hated her because she was with another man. That’s what he wanted to do. He wanted the father to commit suicide, he wanted her to die. That’s all it was. I just loved the script.”

In an age when films are often as graphic as they are violent – Renoir himself was the director whom Jeanette MacDonald made her first film for – The English seemed unusual not least because it was done in black and white. The film has also been called “the most violent film since the French New Wave”.

It has that title: in the film, the father (Richard Attenborough) comes to confront the woman (Emma Thompson) with the gun, but her first response is to turn and walk away from the room. The film then has the man trying to shoot the woman in turn and then killing himself.

It takes its colouring from Renoir’s realisation that “Englishness” was a good way to deal with the guilt, hatred and anger he had felt at his wife’s illness.

“When I think of the film now, I think of him as a very good, wonderful guy who loved me and wanted us to have a life. He didn’t know anything about women until a very late stage in his life. He had a very poor education. That’s why he was such a bad father. When he felt guilt, he would try to get to the root of it but he was very, very, very immature,” he says.

“I’m not saying he was a good person. I’m saying he was a good human being. He was trying to do the best he could with his life to do what he thought was right. I’m not blaming him for having a bad life, but I can understand why he

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