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The Lower Depths (1936)
"Les bas-fonds" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,693 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 21 critic

A charismatic thief makes friends with a bankrupt baron who comes to live in the thief's slum. Meanwhile the thief seeks the love of a young woman, who is held emotionally captive by her slumlord family.


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Title: The Lower Depths (1936)

The Lower Depths (1936) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Wasska Pepel
Suzy Prim ...
Vassilissa Kostyleva
Louis Jouvet ...
Le baron / The Baron
Jany Holt ...
Vladimir Sokoloff ...
Robert Le Vigan ...
The Alcoholic Actor
Camille Bert ...
The Count
René Génin ...
Louka, the wise old man (as René Genin)
Paul Temps ...
Robert Ozanne ...
Jabot de Travers
Henri Saint-Isle ...
Kletsch, the cobbler (as Saint-Iles)
Alex Allin
André Gabriello ...
The Inspector
Léon Larive ...
Felix, le majordomo
Nathalie Alexeeff ...
Anna, the dying woman


The winner of the Louis Delluc Prize as the most outstanding French photo-play of 1936, as selected by the Young Independent Critics of France (an organization and not a description.) The film treats the imprisoning hold of poverty; the disheartening odds of people rising from such social despair, and the ease in which those in the upper spheres of Society may descend. Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 September 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Lower Depths  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


As Kostylev lies dead on the anvil, the shadow of the camera can be seen approaching on the ground. See more »


Vassilissa Kostyleva: One day, everything will be ours. We'll go away together. To live the good life where no one knows us.
Wasska Pepel: Stop it.
Vassilissa Kostyleva: You don't love me anymore. Why not?
See more »


Featured in Han-shojo (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

French perspective of poverty, love and death.
8 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Having seen Akira Kurosawa's 1957 version of the Maxim Gorky play prior to Jean Renoir's 1936 adaptation, I must admit that they couldn't be more different despite being rooted in the same material. Certainly the characters and situations are similar but the tone utilized by each of these world-class directors is so vast in comparison it bears mentioning. While Kurosawa insisted on focusing on these people's problems and their desperation to escape the futility of their world by remaining within the impoverished setting for the entire film, Renoir takes a lighter side by exploring the outside world, showing various methods of escape these characters dream of.

As with Kurosawa, the main focus of Renoir is the love triangle between the thief (played here remarkably by the subtle Jean Gabin) and two sisters, the elder shrill one being the landlord's wife and the other being rather sweet, gentle and somewhat innocent. To me, Renoir plays it better although it is certainly possible that Kurosawa meant specifically to showcase the love triangle as bleak as possible. As for Renoir, he gives all the characters something to say or reminisce about, usually love and death, life and happiness. The rhythm of the dialogue is so melodic and harmonious, it is one of the easiest listening experiences of any foreign film. The conversations between characters is brief but full of meaning, making for a terrific audience experience.

In short, both Renoir and Kurosawa's versions should be viewed although for different reasons. To see Kurosawa's is to see a master director able to balance several characters and story-lines all while maintaining the tone and decorum of futile loneliness. Renoir does the same, only with that particular French joie de vivre. Whatever is to your liking, rest assured each of these films will deliver.

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