An empathic and graceful journey through the cinematographic terrain of Jean Renoir's 36 films from the silents of the '20's to his last (as yet unreleased) Le Petit Theatre de Jean Renoir. Braudy succeeds in modifying the image of Renoir as the director of sunlight and pastoral exuberance -- his father's son transposing the lyrical idyll from canvas to screen. Rejecting any fixed perspective in Renoir's films, Braudy emphasizes the ambiguities and the ironic stylized distancing of such classics as Boudu Saved from Drowning, Grand Illusion and The Diary of a Chambermaid. Working around four overlapping themes -- Nature, Theater, Society, and the Hero -- Brandy argues that the ""rich tentativeness"" of Renoir's elusive masterpieces conforms to the director's belief that film represents a ""potentially suprageneric"" medium in which artifice need not produce 'constriction and nature can confine as well as liberate both the director and his on-screen protagonists. The search for values which occupies Renoir moves obliquely like his ""poaching camera"" back and forth between the isolated hero and the larger community exploring the possibilities and limits of social cohesion. Seemingly affirmed in the ""Popular Front"" films of the '30's, La Marseillaise and La Vie Est A Nous, the community is sardonic and problematic in Grand Illusion and mockingly disintegrated in The Rules of the Game. Brandy is perhaps excessively kind to the more lightweight American films of the '50's but he does demonstrate that the early thematic preoccupations are never abandoned despite numerous permutations. The first full-scale study of Renoir's films in English, this will provoke controversy among the readership of the Cahiers du Cinema. The only drawback for lay readers is the spotty circulation of the films themselves, some of which have never yet been shown in this country.