***/**** Image A Sound B- Extras C
starring Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews
screenplay by Dudley Nichols, based on the novel by Vereen Bell
directed by Jean Renoir
by Walter Chaw Jean Renoir's Swamp Water stands out as an example of how an artist's genius can assert itself even when his product has been taken away from him, re-edited and in some places reshot. Renoir's insistence on actually shooting on location in Georgia's Okefenokee, declared a Federal Wildlife Refuge by FDR in 1937, resulted in a grassroots movement lobbying Darryl Zanuck to hold the premiere locally. It was an artistic choice Godard would later say "revolutionized Hollywood." I'm not sure what Okefenokee residents must have thought of the picture, one that is equal parts offensive cornpone melodrama and haunted, gravid Romanticism. There's an indelible, hard-to-quantify melancholy to the film that's at odds with its boilerplate narrative; it feels like a Joseph Conrad, even if it reads like a Vereen Bell. It's an interesting case study, too, because it might never have happened were Renoir's masterpiece The Rules of the Game not savaged by critics and audiences in his native France, where it would go on to be radically recut, twice-banned, and destroyed in a bombing raid. I like this story, because I think Americans get a bad rap for not recognizing the fruit of their creativity. I like it even more because the French get a lot of credit for being the ones who do.