MOST WOULD AGREE that looks aren't everything. Director Gilles Bourdos' Renoir respectfully offers a counterpoint. Filmed in rich, light-drenched hues by cinematographer Ping Bin Lee (Flight of the Red Balloon, In the Mood for Love), which reference the paintings of its subject, Renoir visits world-renowned painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) in his later years. Along for the sun-dappled ride through the French Riviera is his son Jean Renoir (Vincent Rottiers), who went on to become the famed filmmaker Jean Renoir (La Grande Illusion, The Rules of the Game), and also Andrée Heuschling (Christa Theret), a tempestuous orphan who became the elder Renoir's last muse before his death in 1919.
Enamored with its own beauty, Renoir primarily functions as an attractive series of tableaus. There are certainly dramatic undercurrents at play, like Renoir Sr.'s grief over the recent loss of his wife and reawakened obsession with young female flesh. (Theret is perpetually draped around the film in states of undress, with particular affection paid to her knockers.) Throughout the film, WWI rages in the background, but only in glimpses, underscoring Auguste's determination to shut all ugliness out of his world.
If it's beauty you're after, you'll find it unsullied in Renoir, but if you want to sink your teeth into characters and action, you'll be turned off by the film's pretentious delight in its own good looks. Measure your expectations according to the extent of your pleasure in impressionist pastorals and voluptuous nudes, and act accordingly.