Thursday, 18 October 2012

Jeremie Renier

b. January 6th, 1981.

Ok so it has been a while (again) since I’ve written anything here, but I still enjoy recognising character actors, and then finding out trivia about them, and as long as that’s a thing in my life then I may well keep adding little bits here and there when I can.
Almost all the actors and actresses I’ve written about here so far have been from the USA, (except Eric Blore, who was British but mostly starred in American movies, and Art Hindle who is Canadian) so I’m going to try and write about a few from other places. The one difficult thing I’ve found with this is that the whole feeling of discovery or recognition of a non-star which I’ve been using as criterion for this blog is often compromised the minute you start talking about stars of non-English language films: I mean, I get a sweet flash of “oh shit, it’s that one girl from The Host and Linda Linda Linda!” whenever I see Doona Bae crop up in anything, but in South Korea she’s a HUGE star, so huge that it’s a bit ridiculous to be pointing her out in the introductory way I do in these posts. It’d be like, Hey everyone, have you also heard of this one actress called Meryl Streep possibly?
So, that’s my rationale for not including more non-English speaking actors. However, I really really like this one: though he’s probably one of the biggest, most easily recognised Belgian film stars, I’m going to include him because he still has ‘That One Guy’ status in English language films. Jeremie Renier.
I first saw Renier in some films by the amazing, amazing Belgian directing team Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne – first L’Enfant (2005), then going back through their catalogue, La Promesse (1996), which Renier starred in when he was only 16, followed by Lorna’s Silence (2008), and the slightly disappointing The Kid With A Bike (2011). The Dardennes tend to make understated, thoughtful films about blue collar work (or the struggle to find and hold on to it) and often concern characters who are forced into making difficult ethical decisions. In most of his roles in their films, Renier plays likeable flakes who make terrible life choices: in L’Enfant he and his girlfriend are homeless so he sells their baby; in La Promesse he hides the death of an illegal immigrant from the immigrant’s wife in an effort to ease her pain; in The Kid with a Bike he’s a responsibility-shy father who lets his son down when he’s most needed. On paper, these characters sound like jerks, and I guess onscreen they are as well, though they aren’t stupid jerks – they always seem be able to see paths they could take that would lead them to more ethical behaviour towards others, but a combination of their life situations and incredible passivity keep them from taking those paths.
Renier is also, it would appear, the go – to guy for slick big-budget English language films when they need a generic cute Belgian or French guy. He crops up in the egregious In Bruges, and as a wounded soldier in Atonement. He’s the rough hewn vintner in The Vintner’s Luck. He often shows up in the sort of lighthearted ‘arthouse’ films that middle class, middle aged white women seem to really like – Potiche, Summer Hours.
It’s probably only because he’s in it, but I’m curious now about the recently released biopic Renier stars in – Cloclo, about the singer Claude Francois. I really hope it means I’ll get to see Renier recreate videos like this one:  

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