Film directors usually make the least promising subjects for biography. They tend to stay behind the camera and get on with making films, emerging only to make the odd promotional statement. Only rarely is a filmmaker’s public persona interesting enough to merit biographical interest, and some pay off the attention handsomely. What biographer could resist anatomising the peccadillos of Hitchcock, the neuroses (or conceivably worse) of Woody Allen, the anguished vagaries of Polanski? These directors, in any case, were themselves sufficiently absorbed in their own image to cross over to the other side of the camera and display themselves for public delectation.
Jean Renoir was another director-exhibitionist, and much of his public profile is based on his appearance as an avuncular MC in his final film Le Petit Théâtre de Jean Renoir, or as the oafish Octave in La Régle du Jeu. But judging by the two most recent Renoir biographies –