Toni (1935)

JEAN RENOIR

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

, 1935.   Screenplay by , based on material compiled by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by , .  New York Film Critics Awards 1936.

Immigrants from all over Europe who live and work in the south of France, mostly either picking fruit or in the stone quarry. Among them is Toni, who has come from Italy and is living with jealous Marie but is in love with Spanish Josefa. She marries Toni’s foreman Albert after becoming pregnant, but the degradation of her marriage eventually leads to betrayal and murder. Unusual for Jean Renoir, the aesthetics aren’t plush here, it looks more like something that would come out of Italian neorealism a decade later, but there is his juicy ability to capture the lusty pleasures of human interaction, an early sequence of Toni removing a bee sting from Josefa’s back is one of the sexiest scenes in his oeuvre.  The film’s realistic tone gives the hopelessly melodramatic plot a lot more respectability than it necessarily deserves, but it avoids cliches, consistently surprising with the turns it takes into unpredictable territory until the end.