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There was a lot of FRench movies in the thirties which would take place in Russia ("les Nuits Moscovites" ,"les Nuits de Saint-Petersburg" and even Renoir's "les Bas-Fonds" and Lherbier 's "la Tragédie Impériale ").All these works have in common the inability to create a Russian atmosphere .Paying in roubles and kopecks is not enough to make us believe we are in Russia.
What am I driving at? Well,it is simple: if the direction and the actors are worthwhile ,then the movie can be rewarding.Such is the case of the famous Russian novel adaptation by Pierre Chenal.The scene of the double crime is particularly gripping ,using to enhance the tragedy Honegger's haunting music.
Pierre Blanchard ,sometimes a bland actor, gave in "Crime et Chatiment" his best performance ever.His haunted eyes,his feverish look and his extreme nervousness are really impressive and his portrayal shows every nuance of his fragility and of his despair.Matching him all the way is Harry Baur's mischievous smooth-tongued portrayal of Judge Porphyre:he seems to play cat and mouse with his suspect....and some viewers would go as far as saying he 's a bit Colomboesque.On the other hand,Sonia's part is underwritten and her will to follow the convict is not really convincing.That's the main problem with the movie:the secondary are characters are not well treated .But the duel Blanchard/Baur makes it all worthwhile.
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