This weekend, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will screen Jean Renoir’s 1951 The River as part of its new ongoing series Modern Cinema, whose inaugural installment features a selection of films from the Criterion Collection. Based on English author Rumer Godden’s autobiographical novel, this captivating coming-of-age tale centers on the relationship between three teenage girls growing up in Bengal, India, and the charming American captain who wins their hearts. With the tender compassion that distinguishes his greatest works, Renoir juxtaposes the protagonists’ experiences of young love and heartbreak with the eternal flow of the holy river that serves as the film’s magnificent backdrop. The director’s first foray into color filmmaking, The River boasts radiant Technicolor cinematography by his nephew Claude Renoir. It also occasioned the auteur’s first encounter with Satyajit Ray, who had not yet made a film but assisted Renoir with scouting locations during preproduction.
Those in San Francisco can see The River this Saturday on 35 mm. In the meantime, watch Martin Scorsese’s appreciation of the film below: