Partie de campagne [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (28th October 2023).
The Film

"Partie de campagne" ("A Day in the Country") (1936/1946)

Shop owner Monsieur Dufour (played by André Gabriello), his wife Madame Dufour (played by Jane Marken), their daughter Henriette (played by Sylvia Bataille), her fiancée/shop assistant Anatole (played by Paul Temps) and Henriette's grandmother (played by Gabrielle Fontan) take a trip together to the countryside for a quiet time together as a family. When they arrive at a local restaurant at by the river, two young men, Henri (played by Georges D'Arnoux) and Rodolphe (played by Jacques B. Brunius) spot them, and the men’s eyes are marked towards to the Henriette and her mother. So it becomes their plan to try to separate the men from the women to make their moves for some fun in the sun…

"Partie de campagne", or "A Day in the Country" in English, was based on the 1881 short story "Une partie de campagne" by writer Guy de Maupassant. Maupassant, who died in 1893 at the young age of 42, was acquaintances with impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, father of filmmaker Jean Renoir. Jean Renoir never met Maupassant, as he was born a year after Maupassant’s death, though his written works would be inspirational to the filmmaker’s career. Renoir adapted "Partie de campagne" into a screenplay and production began in the summer of 1936.

Working for producer Pierre Braunberger, the production was meant to be a mid-length film with a runtime of about an hour, so the budget and salaries were quite small in comparison to the director’s other recent films. The cast and crew were small, and existing natural locations along the Loing and Essonne rivers were used, which were far from the studios and the city. Using the beautiful locations to the fullest, there are some wonderful sequences captured by cinematographer and the director’s nephew Claude Renoir. From the swing scene in which the camera moves with the character, the shots from the bridge overlooking the river, to the scene showcasing both the restaurant interior and the outdoors through the windowframe, there are a number of standout scenes from a visual standpoint. The beautiful sunlight hitting the leaves and the grass on the bright summer day are exquisite, as well as the later sequence where the raindrops fall onto the river.

Considering the premise of the story, one might think that there is something dark and twisted in the midst, in the vein of “The Virgin Spring” or “Funny Games” in which something as innocent as a trip through the countryside turns to violence and vengeance. "Partie de campagne" is far from it, taking on a more innocent side with the playful aspect of the two young men who are out for fun and games and not anything too twisted. In addition, a number of the characters are closer to a slapstick comedy film than a drama. The scenes with the heavyset father Dufour and the lanky Anatole are similar to the banter between Laurel and Hardy, both with wordplay and sight gags. Anatole is a dopey character that is called an idiot by his future father-in-law and has no sense of command, yet somehow the father sees him as the suitor for his daughter and the heir to his shop. The mother Dufour is giggly and empty headed with joy throughout, without a care in the world. The grandmother is extremely hard of hearing, causing numerous moments of communication issues and jumbled wordplay. Jean Renoir himself appears as Poulain, the portly restaurant owner who certainly has more character with his twitchy facial movements than any other character. With the characters of Henri and Rodolphe, they may both have their eyes on the ladies but their approaches are quite the opposite. Henri is a realist for love, who has come off a lengthy serious relationship. Rodolphe just wants quick flings and isn't looking for a deeper connection. The two are more of the serious characters of the piece, bringing charming gentlemanly qualities with them when they introduce themselves to the Dufour family, gaining respect from both the men and the women, who find them trustworthy. The character of Henriette is central, who has both innocent qualities as well as strength as shown from scene to scene. She may prance around the field and sway smilingly on the swing, but when she is taking charge, she can be an adult when necessary.

It's interesting to see the contrast between the male characters - the oblivious versus the manipulative, and how they affect each other in comical ways. While all may seem light, it is when Henri and Henriette are alone on a secluded riverbank surrounded by trees that things become more serious. Though she resists at first, they do embrace and kiss on the ground and it is implied that they made love there and then. The final act of the story takes quite a serious tone, with the reunion of the two long after that fateful day. Henriette is now married to Anatole, yet she cries when she sees Henri, knowing that what they shared could never be forgotten or taken away. It's clear she is not happy with her choice but she didn't have a way to run from it. Henri admits that he long waited for her to return, and as a romantic at heart believed it could lead to something more than just a fling for a day. "A Day in the Country" is a bittersweet story of love, lust, loss, and the choices that affect the heart, yet it is not a preachy story at all. It is not deep with consequences or extended outcomes, but rather a simplified tale of a summer romance that could have been and may or may not have been the best decision. It is up for the audience to decide, and is a story that many can easily relate to.

There were quite a few notable names within the young crewmembers, with cinematographer Claude Renoir, assistant director Jacques Becker, and set dresser Luchino Visconti. Claude Renoir began his career as the cinematographer for his uncle’s 1935 feature “Toni” and worked on a number of notable films in France and elsewhere over the next few decades, including memorable visuals in "Barbarella" (1968) and "007 - The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977). Becker was a leading force in noir inspired features in the 1950s and influencing the upcoming French New Wave, with films such as "Touchez pas au grisbi" (1954) and "Casque d'or" (1952), "Le trou" (1960), Visconti became one of the defining voices of Italian cinema in the postwar period, with masterpieces such as "Bellissima" (1952), "The Leopard" (1963), "The Damned" (1969) and more.

While the film itself may seem lighthearted, the production was anything but. Rainy weather caused the production to be delayed, with the short schedule extending from June to August. Coupled with tension on the set between Renoir, the actors and the crewmembers on the small feature, as well as Renoir's meticulous direction, it was a troubled production. Renoir was also developing an adaptation of Maxim Gorky's "The Lower Depths" for a feature film, and when Films Albatros gave the greenlight for that production, he decided to abandon the frustrating production of "Partie de campagne" which was nearly but not fully shot. Braunberger had Renoir's notes on the film, and hired writer Jacques Prévert to extend the story. Renoir was contacted by Braunberger after the completion of "The Lower Depths" to try and finish the abandoned feature though Renoir would decline. German filmmaker Douglas Sirk was one of the names contacted to try and salvage the incomplete film with new sequences, though he also refused the offer. With time passing by, the war breaking out and with Renoir moving to Hollywood, the chances for "Partie de campagne" being completed became an impossible task, and that was in addition to the original actors aging.

Following the end of the war and a full ten years after the film was shot, Braunberger constructed a 40 minute incomplete version of the film from the few hours of footage shot, with a title card at the start explaining the film's incomplete state and having two title cards to bridge the gaps in the story. According to the original script, there were two scenes that were not filmed. The first being the establishing scene at the start for the Dufour family leaving Paris and going to the countryside. The other was following the rainstorm and the characters parting ways and returning home. "Partie de campagne" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on September 21st, 1946. Over the years it has been called one of the best unfinished films ever made, with Renoir's direction being singled out by balancing the comedy and the drama. Unlike works such as "Bruce Lee's Game of Death" or "Something's Got to Give" in which less than half of the stories were filmed before the deaths of their main stars, "Partie de campagne" actually works with the footage that is presented. While the travel scenes would have given further depth to the characters, the story still works without them. Though Renoir distanced himself from the project for some time, he was more forgiving after the film's warm reception. Obviously there is much more that could have been told. Whatever happened between Rodolphe and the mother? Did the father and Anatole ever catch any fish? Did Henriette ever tell her secret to anyone? Where did the grandmother wander off to all that time? It could easily be excused as the film is incomplete, though in a standard storytelling narrative there are many points that are left unfulfilled. Even with its flaws, the film still works as quite an achievement.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray


The BFI presents the film in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. A composite fine-grain element was scanned at 2K resolution and restored in 2013 by Les Films du Panthéon with Les Films du Jeudi and La Cinémathèque française, with the support of the CNC and the contribution of the Fonds Culturel Franco-Américain. The restoration looks wonderful, with a detailed black and white image with excellent greyscale. Damage marks such as speckles and tramline scratches have been completely removed, while film grain is left intact for a great filmic image that doesn't look waxy or digital at all. The image is stable without any wobble or warping to be found. The full aperture is opened without matting so the rounded corners of the edges are fully visible, though because of that there is a shot in the restaurant that the on-set microphone can be seen at the bottom of the screen. Though the restoration may be ten years old now, it is still a great one that still stands strong, and is presented well here by the BFI.

The film's runtime is 40:34 which includes additional restoration text at the start and the end.


French LPCM 2.0 mono
The original mono audio track is presented in uncompressed form. With the on-location synchronized sound, there are some flaws to the recording, with dialogue not having full clarity and being muffled at points. Fidelity is thin and there are some points that are hard to hear. There are great music cues by composer Joseph Kosma, though they can sound slightly flat at times. On the positive side, audio flaws such as hiss, pops, and crackle have been removed, leaving a clean sounding audio track. It's likely this is the best the film will sound and though flawed, it is still fair to the ears.

There are optional English subtitles in a white font which are well timed and easy to read.


Audio commentary by film historian Philip Kemp (2003)
Film historian Philip Kemp's audio commentary is an excellent one, as he discusses the making of the film, the techniques used, comparisons to other films, about the author, Renoir's career, the locations, the frustrating experience of the cast and crew, about the score, the missing scenes, reactions to the film, and more. While the commentary is only forty minutes long, quite a lot of great information which was well researched is discussed. Note this commentary was originally on the BFI's DVD release from 2003.
in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"Un tournage à la campagne" 1994 compilation of outtakes from the film (89:16)
In April of 1962, producer Pierre Braunberger donated 4.5 hours of unused footage from "Partie de campagne" to the Cinémathèque française for preservation. For the celebration of Renoir's centenary, a selection of the footage was compiled and edited by filmmaker Alain Fleischer in 1994 and screened as "Un tournage à la champagne", meaning "A Shoot in the Countryside" in English. The footage is edited in order of the film's continuity. Comprised of alternate takes, extended sequences with clapperboards, deleted scenes, bloopers, there are also examples of Renoir giving direction on screen and off. There is no additional narration for explanations, and no additional music cues as everything is presented as it was shot on location at the time. The transfer seemingly comes from a standard definition source, and though it is in a watchable state, there are instances of speckles and other damage marks to be found. Some of the scenes have sound while a handful are presented silent without music or dialogue. Note some of the footage here was available on the BFI's DVD release from 2003.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in French LPCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles

Screen Tests (9:03)
Presented here are a selection of silent screen tests done on location in June of 1936. The footage which was deposited at the Cinémathèque française, was assembled by film editor Claudine Kaufmann. The footage is in weaker shape, with some speckles and marks on the image and the black and white levels not having as much depth, though it is in fairly good shape considering the age and the elements. It seemingly comes from a standard definition transfer. Note this extra was available on the BFI's DVD release from 2003.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1

Jean Renoir lecture & Q&A at the National Film Theatre (1963, audio only) (89:16)
Presented here is an audio recording of a lengthy lecture by Renoir. He discusses the filmmaking process, from the silents to the sound era and the changing landscape, his recollections of bland early French silents, his inspiration from foreign films, his thoughts on the acting process and much more. The audio is not in the best of shape and can sound a bit muffled. In addition the volume is quite low throughout. There is a portion at around 57 minutes in which the audio drops out, though it returns a few seconds later. Note that this plays as an alternate audio track over "Un tournage à la campagne", and conveniently is the length of the film itself.
in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

A 20 page booklet is included in the first pressing. First is the essay "From Magnificent Torso to Perfectly Finished Work" by author Barry Nevin, which looks at the film's production history, France at the time and its impact. Next is "Notes on Maupassant and the Cinema" by lecturer, critic, and broadcaster Pasquale Iannone on the writer's works and adaptations. This is followed by a short biography on Jean Renoir written by Kemp. There are also full film credits, special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements, and stills.

The film was released on DVD by the BFI in 2003 and all the extras are carried over to the Blu-ray upgrade. A French DVD from Studio Canal has a number of interviews, featurettes and documentaries, all of which are not available on this BFI Blu-ray release. The film received a Blu-ray upgrade in 2015, from the Criterion Collection in North America and M6 Video in France. They also include "Un tournage à la campagne" and the screen tests, though both include some differing exclusive extras. While the BFI Blu-ray release may be lacking the interviews and documentaries found on those releases, the exclusive commentary and the full length lecture are essential extras.

Other notable clips:

A clip from the film, courtesy of the BFI

A clip from the outtakes, courtesy of The Criterion Collection

The trailer for "La flor" (2018), the 7-hour Argentine film which has a segment that remakes "Partie de campagne"


"Partie de campagne" is often called one of the greatest unfinished films of all time, due to the fact that it stands strong as a film by itself in an incomplete form. There are flaws to be seen because of it, though it gives it a unique form. Renoir's direction, the comical aspects, and the simplistic nature are standouts, and the BFI's Blu-ray features an excellent transfer and a number of great extras. Highly recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B Extras: A- Overall: A-


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