A man and a woman arrive in a cafe-hotel near the belgian frontier. The customers recognize the man from the police's description. His name is Amedee Lange, he murdered Batala in Paris. His...
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A man and a woman arrive in a cafe-hotel near the belgian frontier. The customers recognize the man from the police's description. His name is Amedee Lange, he murdered Batala in Paris. His lady friend Valentine tells the whole story : Lange was an employee in Batala's little printing works. Batala was a real bastard, swindling every one, seducing female workers of Valentine's laundry... One day he fled to avoid facing his creditors, and the workers set up a cooperative to go on working. But the plot is less important that the description of the atmosphere just before the Popular Front. Written by
According to film scholar Alexander Sesonske, the Catalan painter Jean Castanier (also spelled "Castanier") approached his friend Jacques Becker with the idea of a film about "a likable little world of print-shop workers and laundresses who form a cooperative" to be called Sur la Cour, which Becker would direct. Becker was much taken by the idea, but the producer who took on the project didn't trust him, and decided to offer it to the more experienced director Jean Renoir, for whom Becker had already worked as assistant director on several pictures. Becker was reportedly so furious at Renoir for directing "his" film that he refused to work as assistant director on the production, though he would later work again as Renoir's assistant on several films (e.g. La Grande Illusion (1937)), before becoming a full-time director himself. See more »
When Batala, the owner of a failing publishing firm is presumed dead, the inhabitants of the surrounding courtyard take over. The collective is very successful, until Batala returns and wants to take control again.
This is one of Renoir's films made for the Front Populaire, a cartel of leftist parties that was briefly in power during the thirties. It's clear where the movie's sympathies lie, but what makes Le Crime de Monsieur Lange interesting is how it deviates from the party line: it has a hero who dreams, not of socialism, but of the individualism of the gunmen from the Far West, the collective is all-inclusive and non-political, taking aboard the wealthy ne'er do well Meunier as well as the reactionary Colonel and then there's the character of Batala (Jules Berry): in this kind of film you would expect him to be a symbol of exploiting capitalism for us to despise. Yes, he is cynical and manipulative, but as a capitalist, he is a failure: he's always hiding from creditors, thinking up hare brained schemes to keep his business afloat and he doesn't so much exploit the poor as take advantage of naiveté (if you sign a contract without reading it, you really shouldn't complain about finding commercial messages in your cowboy stories). Whatever he does, he remains a charming rogue, which adds complexity to what could have been simpleminded propaganda. The crime of Mr. Lange is committed against an individual, not a symbol.
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