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Okay, so on p.125 of Bazin's 1973 book on Jean Renoir, we find the following sentence:

it is scarcely exaggerating to say that Renoir wrote Orvet because of the way a young French dancer he met in Hollywood had said les bwooah.

What is the meaning of "les bwooah?"

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2 Answers 2

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This is a way to pronounce the French word "bois" which means "forest" or "wood". Orvet is living in a forest.

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Context. This will help in providing a better answer:

Renoir wrote Orvet for Leslie Caron, whom he had met at Charles Boyer's house in Hollywood. It was at a time when Renoir probably more or less consciously wanted to try the theater. The play is without question the product of this desire, coupled with a childhood memory (an eleven-year-old girl he had met in the Fontainebleau Forest) and the encounter with Leslie. It is also a result of Renoir's desire to consider certain moral verities with his audience. But in the final analysis, it is Leslie Caron who made Orvet what it is. Renoir was perfectly straightforward in telling me that for another actress the play would have been considerably different. Specifically, what he found so seductive in her was her voice and her way of pronouncing les bois with her mouth full of big round o's. He went on to explain:

The little actresses from the dramatic art courses these days have an impossible pronunciation. Perhaps it is the way they are taught to pose their voices. Or maybe it is the result of the lycée, but girls today almost all have the same sharp, affected voice. And, strangely enough, it is above all the girls of common background. It is frequently in the solid bourgeoisie that you find from time to time a pleasant, natural voice. When I was starting in Hollywood and had to make Swamp Water, the production director insisted that I hire Linda Darnell, on the pretext that she came from peasant stock and was used to the country. She is a good actress but her voice has nothing peasant about it. I held out for Anne Baxter. She was unknown at the time, and came from a perfectly bourgeois and urban back ground, but she could talk like a farm girl.

So it is scarcely exaggerating to say that Renoir wrote Orvet because of the way a young French dancer he met in Hollywood had said les bwooah.

[ Jean Renoir by André Bazin, trad. W. W. Halsey II et William H. Simon, W. H. Allen, London & New York, 1974 ]

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  • Ouais, merci, peut-être que quelqu'un d'autre va allumer. J'aimerais lire une réponse qui m'explique ça. Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 20:43
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    Elle ne disait pas /bwa/ (une syllabe) mais /bwoa/ (deux syllabes), un mélange de boa et de bois. Ça m'évoque un accent québécois. Par exemple : le d'sous est en bois
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 23:01
  • Mais est-ce que c'est une prononciation différente ou simplement prononcer plus lentement... Avec boa et la personne de Lyon, ça ressemble beaucoup à bois. Ou Renoir parle d'une espèce de diphtongue ? Dans boa le o est avant le w (phonétiquement, beau-wa). Finalement, pourquoi la référence à la rondeur, c'est la forme de la bouche ou la « forme » du son ? Je reste passablement perplexe, mais ce n'est pas nouveau avec ce genre de question... @jlliagre Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 23:32
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    La rondeur serait la forme de la bouche. Leslie Caron avait peut-être à l'époque une diction appliquée, un accent "bourgeois", celui des quartiers chics de Paris, ("Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy").
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 10, 2022 at 1:08
  • Oui. Étant donné qu'Orvet était une pièce de théâtre, nous n'avons pas de trace de la prononciation exacte de Leslie Caron comme nous l'aurions dans un film. Mais merci à tous d'avoir répondu à cette question. Désolé - il m'est venu à l'esprit après avoir posté que j'aurais pu y répondre moi-même en relisant simplement une section précédente du texte.
    – George
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 0:32

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