Running at just 41 minutes, A Day in the Country (Original title: Une partie de campagne) is a brief film, but a beautiful one. Based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, this lovely little picture was directed by Jean Renoir.
A Day in the Country tells the story of a family’s trip to, well… the country. The patriarch (André Gabriello) owns a shop in Paris, and can’t wait to get out of the city for a while along with his wife (Jane Marken), his daughter (Sylvia Bataille), and his future son-in-law (Paul Temps).
Stopping for lunch, they get more than just a meal when two young locals (Georges D’Arnoux and Jacques B. Brunius) offer them fishing poles, boat rides, and other adventures.
Criterion notes the interesting history of the production:
“Conceived as a short feature, the project had nearly finished production in 1936 when Renoir was called away for The Lower Depths. Shooting was abandoned then, but the film was completed with the existing footage by Renoir’s team and released in its current form in 1946, after the director had already moved on to Hollywood.”
I watched this film on Hulu as a part of their Criterion streaming collection. The opening title in this version states that while Renoir was unable to finish the film, it is presented as he left it, with just a couple of intertitles added for context.
The viewer experiences A Day in the Country from two perspectives: that of the two women of the family (mother and daughter, both with a dreamy infatuation with nature and the country’s beauty) and that of the two local men (who, despite the fact that the women are accompanied by their respective husband and fiancé, are determined to win the ladies over).
The perspective of the men brings a bit of humor, and if I’m being honest, more than a bit of skeeviness as they plot to win the women over. They ask themselves: How can we be our most appealing selves? Is it more attractive to fish from the shore, or from a boat?
The perspective of the women, on the other hand, serves the purpose of cementing the film’s idyllic view of the country: a place of millions of marvelous creatures, and sunny picnics of fresh-caught fish. Just writing that description makes me want to turn the clock forward to spring and head to the nearest meadow.
A Day in the Country is nicely paced and well-acted, with some very lovely cinematography adding to the viewer’s enjoyment of the story. There’s a little twist to the story, too, a mood-changer which I won’t give away.
I would consider this a must-watch for basically any film fan. Regardless of your taste, your genre preferences… since the film runs well under an hour, you certainly won’t be wasting much time by checking it out, and even those who may not be fans of the story can appreciate the beauty and skilled construction of the picture. The score: 5/5!