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Directing Actors by Jean Renoir

Directing Actors by Jean Renoir

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Actor Gisèle Braunberger sits across a small table from Jean Renoir. She leans forward, focusing intently on the director, her hands rhythmically fidgeting, as he outlines the premise of the script page he is about to work through with her—a scene from the Rumer Godden novel Breakfast with the Nikolides.

Renoir breaks the text down to its basics, a process which slowly and organically allows character to emerge. He begins with Braunberger reading the script with no affect at all—like a child reading a phone book. Each time she shows emotion, even for a syllable, he stops her. But despite his rigidity, he remains compassionate and supportive.

In this short film, which is directed by Braunberger, we see the process in action from first read all the way through to a powerful studio take. It is a fascinating insight into Renoir’s approach, and a mini master-class in developing authentic character.

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