Butchered by its original distributor (who cut it by an hour), surviving in a merely adequate print, this is nevertheless superb early Renoir. Valentine Tessier, mannered and theatrical - though not inappropriately so - is something of an acquired taste as Flaubert's unfortunate provincial lady, dreaming of romance while trapped in marriage to a bovine village doctor (magnificently played by Pierre Renoir), but the direction is masterly. Making systematic (and stunning) use of deep focus, Renoir captures perfectly the eternally irreconcilable beauty and boredom of the provinces, rooting Emma squarely in lovely Norman landscapes which her pathetic yearnings for a fantasy world turn into a bleak desert.
Cast and crew
Robert Le Vigan