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Vittorio De Sica
Maria Pia Casilio,
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Carl Theodor Dreyer
Emil Hass Christensen,
Preben Lerdorff Rye
Severine gives Roubaud a Nogent knife, which he is impressed with. The region of Nogent-Bassigny is a centre of French cutlery manufacture. It also the name of a company that makes knives and similar items. See more »
Jean Renoir's work has been the best of all possible cinemas in the French thirties:a ruthless bourgeois wholesale massacre (la chienne,1931,Boudu sauvé des eaux,1932),Italian neorealism ten years before Rossellini,DeSica et al(Toni,1934),cinema verité before Godard (la vie est à nous ,1936)romantic and tragic pastoral,(une partie de campagne,probably his masterpiece,1936),pacifism(la grande illusion,1937,his most overrated,thus the most popular),history (la revolution française,1938)then "la bête humaine".
"La bête humaine" is arguably the best Zola screen adaptation.Seventeenth part of the Rougon-Macquart family saga-one of the peaks of French lit in the 19th century-,this could be the best with the exceptions of "l'assommoir" and "Germinal".The hero is a son of Gervaise Macquart ,Jacques Lantier.He was not mentioned in any of the previous books,because Gervaise had only 3 children (Nana,Etienne(in Germinal) and Claude (in l'oeuvre),and Zola needed one more,so he made up this fourth child from start to finish.What he needed was a hero with a history of mental illness (stemming from alcohol).Jean Gabin portrays Jacques with a sublime conviction:the scene in which he tries to strangle Blanchette Brunoy to whom he confesses he can't help it,he can't escape the terrible fate which is in store for him.
When he meets Severine(Simone Simon,the future heroine of Tourneur's "cat people'(1942)),and is attracted by her sexually,the woman,whose husband (Fernand Ledoux) is anything but handsome, feels in deep in her perverse soul, that she's found the right killer,because she has discovered he's unable to keep his self-control .
Some scenes are absolutely unforgettable:the beginning,which films the railroad tracks as never before;the railroad men dance,during which a murder is committed while a singer is crooning an old song,"le petit coeur de Ninon";the final,faithful to Zola to a fault: a train,belting in the night,gone mad,which becomes a metaphor not only for Lantier's descent into hell,but for the country (it's 1938!) heading for the darkness.Renoir had transposed the action in th thirties.These dazzling pictures perfectly echo Zola's extraordinary lines:"Elle roulait,roulait sans fin,comme affolée de plus en plus par le bruit de son haleine"(It was rolling,endlessly rolling,as if it were more and more panic-stricken by the sound of its breath).
Remake by Fritz Lang in 1954 :"human desire" with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame;although I admire Fritz Lang very much,I think his effort is neatly inferior.
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