Mighty master shows how it's done

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Sitting through the facile, flashy exercises in postmodern gore that pass for films nowadays, you might well forget that cinema can be an art form. And the auteur theory, with film director as serious artist, hardly squares with the example of retards like Stone and Tarantino. Luckily, tonight's Omnibus (10.30pm BBC1) sets the record straight, being the first of a two-part documentary on the great Jean Renoir.

The son of a rather talented dauber (Pierre Auguste Renoir), Jean experienced an early cinematic epiphany. One of his father's models, Gabrielle, took him to the flicks when he was a callow four-year-old: the event made such an impression on him that he wet himself. After fighting in the First World War, Jean Renoir decided that he wanted to flood auditoria in a more socially acceptable way - with light and sound.

David Thomson's gorgeous film uses some heavyweight talking heads but the real pleasure is the footage of Renoir himself. Modest as only gifted people can convincingly be, Renoir always insisted on the immense contribution his actors made to the films. And what was the transcendent goal of this master, whose talent drove even that noted aesthete, Joseph Goebbels, to call La Grande Illusion "Cinematographic enemy number one"? Simple, Renoir said: "I'm trying to discover human beings." It sounds so obvious, doesn't it?