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Elizabeth Vitanza, « Lost in Translation : "Diary of a Chambermaid" (1945-46) »

Elizabeth Vitanza, « Lost in Translation : "Diary of a Chambermaid" (1945-46) »

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Elizabeth Ann Vitanza, « Lost in Translation : "Diary of a Chambermaid" (1945-46) » , in "Rewriting the rules of the game : Jean Renoir in America, 1941-1947", Ph. D. Thesis, U.C.L.A., Los Angeles, 2007, chapter IV.
Elizabeth Ann Vitanza, « Lost in Translation : "Diary of a Chambermaid" (1945-46) » , in "Rewriting the rules of the game : Jean Renoir in America, 1941-1947", Ph. D. Thesis, U.C.L.A., Los Angeles, 2007, chapter IV.

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05/11/2014

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F O U R
 I am the only one whodoesnt feel absolutelysatisfied with myself.
~Jean Renoir, 1945
1
 Renoir ne se pète pas; ilavance encore.
~
Daniel Serceau
2
Octave Mirbeau à la saucehollywoodienne
.~Film critic, 1948
3
LOST IN TRANSLATION:
 DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID
(1945-46)
Before
Diary 
:
 
Renoir’s
Salute to France
and “Ambiguous Propaganda”
The origins of 
 Diary of a Chambermaid 
can be traced back to 1944, when Renoirfirst met the people with whom he would eventually produce the film. Following thesuccess of 1943’s
This Land is Mine
, Renoir had been invited to make a propaganda filmfor the Office of War Information (OWI) in New York in February1944.
4
 Ultimatelyentitled
 A Salute to France
, the OWI engagement expanded to include a second, French-language version called
Salut à la France
. It was through his work there that he met
1
Jean Renoir, letter to Burgess Meredith and Paulette Goddard, 7 November 1945, Jean RenoirPapers.
2
Daniel Serceau
 Jean Renoir 
,
Filmo
12 (Edilig: Paris, 1985) 88.
3
 
Opéra
160
 ,
(9 juin 1948)
 
6. Cited from Laurent le Forestier, “L’accueil en France des filmsaméricains de réalisateurs français à l’époque des accords Blum-Byrnes.”
 Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine
51.4 (2004): 78-97, 96.
4
 
Janet Bergstrom “Jean Renoir and the Allied War Effort: Saluting France in TwoLanguages.”
 Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
26.1 (2006): 45-56, 45.
143
 
F O U RBurgess Meredith and his then-wife, Paulette Goddard.
5
These two films were conceivedas instructive pieces for Allied troops and French citizens, respectively, to illustrate that“America admires and respects France and that our troops enter French territory asfriends and liberators” (Bergstrom 46).
6
Together with writer/director Garson Kanin andwriter/actor Meredith, Renoir simultaneously filmed the English and French versions.
7
Each dramatized Franco-Anglo-American ties among three soldiers of differingnationalities who arrive at the conclusion they are all working toward the same greatgoal, with no country being superior to another (Bergstrom 46). Renoir only directed; thefilms were edited down by others into much shorter final versions (“Saluting France” 54).Janet Bergstrom and Brett Bowles have both detailed the major and minorconflicts over the course of the project to demonstrate the unique role these twopropaganda films played in Renoir’s career. Though
Salut 
 
à la France
was brieflyreleased in France
8
 right after the liberation, its “sunny portrait of tri-national solidarity”bore no trace of “catastrophic collateral damage inflicted during the liberation of northeast Franceby the British and US forces (Bowles 65). Bergstrom and Bowlesmaintain that this comparatively minor project remains important both as a means to
5
She had previously been married to one of Renoir’s idols, Charlie Chaplin.
6
Bergstrom 46. Also see Brett Bowles “Jean Renoir’s
Salut à la France
: Documentary FilmProduction, Distribution, and Reception in France, 1944-45.”
 Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
26.1 (2006): 57-86, 60.
7
 
The producer, Philip Dunne, recalled that the “English and French scenes were directed oneright after the other […] Kanin directed the English version and Renoir the French version […]. Infact, Renoir ended up directing both versions.” Cf. Bergstrom 47-48.
8
Bowles’s research finds very limited screenings for the film; it is likely that “it probablyreached an audience of no more than 75, 000” 61.
144
 
F O U Runderstanding the OWI’s misguided directives to help prepare for the Allied arrival inFrance as well as to revealing Renoir’s own misgivings over performing such a task. Thefilms’ bland, bilingual messages of international cooperation did little to dispel thestereotype of a pathetic France (Bergstrom 50).
 
Renoir’s portrayals of national unity hadlittle to do with the need for vengeance, retribution or daily sustenance that preoccupiedFrance in late 1944. Given the state of affairs in Paris,
Salut 
was ultimately an ill-timed,ill-fitting piece of propaganda. The France in which OWI was screening its variouspropaganda films in many ways remained the fractured France of 
 La Règle du jeu
:
 
theResistance itself was plagued by implacable divisions and rivalries. In the Liberation’simmediate aftermath, a propaganda war pitted the Gaullist groups against the Marxist-Communist faction, with the two sides using competing newsreels to claim an almostexclusive role in securing victory (Bowles 76). Renoir’s American-commissionednarrative of the Allied invasion fell on deaf ears in the immediate postwar battle forpolitical hearts and minds (Bowles 76).
9
As Bowles remarks, today one only need watch
 Le Chagrin et la pitié 
to sense the divisions and violence seething among the French evenas they celebrated their freedom.
Salut à la France
did not offer the type of closure mostFrench wanted; rather, it re-hashed a tiresome message of international solidarity. “Therewas much that needed to be forgotten,”
observes historian Jan-Werner Muller, beforeFrance could put itself back together (5).
9
 
As I noted in the previous chapter, Renoir had been reading about parallel divisions in theFrench film industry in letters from his brothers.
10
Jan Werner-Muller, introduction,
 Memory and Power in Post-War Europe: Studies in thePresence of the Past,
ed. Jan Werner-Mueller (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002).
145

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