La Chienne (1931) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
20 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Renoir's wholesale massacre has begun.
dbdumonteil14 April 2002
With "la chienne",French cinema enters the pathway to genius.During the thirties,it will be one of the best in the world.In those ancient times,it used to walk from strength to strength,encompassing the most phenomenal innovations the seventh art had ever known.Opening and closing his film with a puppet theater,Renoir predates Mankiewicz's "Sleuth" prologue(1972) and countless others by decades.Punch and Judy,what a derision!

Renoir has begun his wholesale massacre;the bourgeois society ,the army ,the justice are his main targets.M.Legrand,whose spouse is a shrew,keeps a mistress,Lulu,(la chienne=the bitch)who doesn't care a little bit about him and who has herself another man in her life ,Dédé.This dandy sponges her off.Legrand and Lulu are actually longing for tenderness,but a society in which money and respectability run rampant leaves them with no chance at all.It's when he rebels against it that Legrand will find his way.His wife-shrew always compares him to his first hubby,a warrant officer killed in action during WW1?Never mind that,when the soldier comes back -he was actually prisoner in Germany-,Legrand gets rid of his missus!Now he thinks he can live with Lulu but he finds her in bed with her lover.Now Legrand will despise the rule of the game(that's Renoir's 1939 movie title).

SPOILERS.SPOILERS.SPOILERS. You've got to follow the pack.Legrand kills Lulu (as the precedent user has pointed it out,the scene is a model of film noir murder:we see nothing of the crime but a knife;the camera stays in the street,focusing on a busker,playing a heartrending tune on her violin,only showing the windows of the house.)When Dédé is accused of the murder,Legrand will not surrender:he used to be a respectable man,and he knows that the society will always be siding with the "moral ",and that it will be happy to condemn a lazy pimp.Renoir allows himself the most immoral ending you can think of,and in 1931,at that!

At the end of the movie,Legrand,who now thoroughly refuses the golden rules,has become a tramp.It's a tramp like this who will rise from the gutter to shake the bourgeois society in "la chienne" follow-up,"Boudu sauvé des eaux"(avoid the remake"down and out in Beverly Hills").It's no coincidence if Michel Simon plays Legrand and Boudu.These two works are Renoir at his most ferocious .
26 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What a great world that can find space for both this and SCARLET STREET. (possible spoiler)
alice liddell24 February 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the same novel, this film and Fritz Lang's magnificent SCARLET STREET are almost identical in terms of plot. A painfully shy and friendless office cashier, Maurice Legrand (brutally ironic name), lives with his shrewish wife, and paints cathartically in his spare time. After an office party one night, he comes across a young brute hitting a woman. They are actually lovers, pimp Dede and employee Lulu, but contrive a scheme to have Legrand pay for a well-appointed apartment while Lulu pretends to be his lover. To pay for this he robs his employer, and when this runs out, the lovers fob off his paintings as Lulu's. They are a success and earn her fame and fortune.

Legrand is paralysed by life with his intolerable wife, whose sublime military dead husband is repeatedly extolled to Legrand's detriment. One day, however, he comes across this very much alive paragon of virtue, a blackmailing tramp who feigned his death to escape the same wife. Legrand sees an opportunity to at last divest himself of her, and, on the pretext of stealing her money, reunite the happy couple. Delighted, he packs up, and heads for his young mistress, who, unsurprisingly, lies in bed with her lover.

As the subject matter are almost (thought, crucially, not totally) identical, the difference between the two films must be sought in approach, style, emphasis and omission. Lang's 1945 film owes much to the contemporary film noir cycle, as well as the subversive male melodrama. SCARLET STREET is much more about the price of humanity and expression under capitalism, the alienation of both the worker and the artist from his work, as well as the suffocating nature of American respectability.

STREET has been accused of being a compromised essay in guilt, but it is not remorse that torments Chris Cross for the rest of his life, so much as his failure to escape his initial hell on earth; his blind adhesion to a false escape that taunts him even after it has been removed. Lang's style is perfectly suited to this interpretation, harsh, austere, geometric, entrapping his characters in formal grids, both interior and exterior, fixing them with pitiless irony when they seem most free.

This is alien to Renoir's reputation for a warm, humanistic temperament, and his film is much brighter and more playful, although, in the early 1930s, we have many of noir's central tenets - the weak man brought down by a femme fatale; the inevitability of Fate expressed through plot; the use of interiors, framing and shadows to visualise the mindset of the trapped protagonist.

But Renoir's attitude to all this is not altogether serious. There is a structural affirmation of play that seems to reject the film's literal aspirations. For instance, CHIENNE opens with three Punch and Judy-type puppets fighting over what kind of film this is. While their struggle enacts the events of the film, it also ridicules it; and their final conclusion is that the film has no moral and isn't about anything.

In a very real sense, it isn't; it's about the destruction of values and morals. Lulu and Dede betray certain moral codes in manipulating Legrand; the courts emasculate themselves by executing an innocent (of murder anyway) man; Legrand escapes his shrewish wife, his oppressive job and lives the blissful, almost communal life of a tramp (which, as has been pointed out, looks ahead to Renoir's next masterpiece, BOUDU SAUVE DES EAUX), reward for theft and murder.

Renoir achieves this amorality with a tacitness that is startling in retrospect. Although he is constantly ironising throughout the film - often the performers begin performing (see Legrand revealing her 'dead' husband to his wife); the studied use of frames, mirrors, paintings, windows etc. continually draw attention to the constructed nature of the film - his critique of the bourgeois is more generous than Lang's, its oppression less a living thing than lived in.

Legrand's predicament is expressed in his being made crouch at home and work by vast bourgeois accoutrements, constantly bumping into, and being dwarfed by, things. By tiny details, such as a neighbour hanging out washing, or a child playing a piano, Renoir points to another world outside this torrid prison. This is typical of his method - his privileging of deep space asks us to look and imagine beyond, to interpret what we see and look for alternatives.

This is most brilliantly illustrated at the moment of the film's climax, when Legrand discovers his betrayal. Instead of resorting to heated close-ups, hysterical music, meaningful shadows, Renoir quietly takes his camera outside of the scene, moves it slowly around the apartment until, non-dramatically, we see its components through a curtained window. We are reefed out of the drama, shown that it is a drama, that there are other realities, namely that of the camera, and our own, and asked to ruminate thereon.

This is not to suggest that CHIENNE is a chilly formal excercise. Renoir loves people too much for it to be that, but asks us to look at what shapes people and their decisions. If he's not quite as sympathetic to his villains as Lang, he places much emphasis on class, and Lulu's showing her friend her new apartment with its bathroom is very touching and highly revealing. Likewise, Renoir doesn't make as much play with Legrand's paintings as Lang - they are less expressions of his diseased unhappiness for a start - but puts them into a wider context of framing and perspective (it's ironic that austere formalist Lang should seem more humanistic than humanistic Renoir).

The murder scene is a genuine masterpiece, weaving together all the different themes of sexual unhappiness, betrayal, the public and private space (the murder is intercut with a beautifully nostalgic busking session on the street), art as expression and concealment. The whole sequence - from murder to Dede's discovery of the body - is a model of Renoir's method, formally precise, yet powerfully emotional.
20 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Film (Re)Noir
Hitchcockyan8 January 2017
Jean Renoir's LA CHIENNE is an exhilaratingly nasty tale of a henpecked hosiery cashier's adulterous relationship with a manipulative prostitute, and the moral damnation that ensues. Noir aficionados will instantly make the SCARLET STREET connection but the unmistakable differences in execution and style render both of these masterworks sufficiently distinguishable.

Firstly, LA CHIENNE is more sexually charged of the two - evidenced by the explicit exhibition of its various on screen dalliances. SCARLET STREET on the other hand was shackled by the Hays Code where the furthest Edward G. Robinson's character gets is painting his mistress' toe nails. Restrictions of the production code notwithstanding SCARLET STREET is still the bleaker of the two and remains one of the hallmarks of classic film-noir, while LA CHIENNE benefits from its consistent tragicomedy tone.

Michel Simon is outstanding as the frustrated, love-struck painter who's almost destined to lose: he's domineered by his miserable wife when he's not being cuckolded and scammed by his deceitful mistress (and her scheming pimp boyfriend) and remains oblivious of the fact that he's merely a part-time lover but a full-time benefactor. EGR's rendition however was on a completely different level and had more psychological heft to it.

LA CHIENNE's visual aesthetic is loaded with quadrangular, window-framed, canvas-like compositions that not only resonate with the film's theatrical opening but also with the art produced by our protagonist. I also feel that it's too beautifully realised (or at least the restoration made it so) to be categorised as "noir" in the traditional sense and is devoid of conventional noir flourishes, rugged edges or pulpy vibes. Having said that it was undoubtedly instrumental in the proliferation of films that would come to be known as noir.

As an interesting aside, SCARLET STREET was not the only Lang venture that shared a literary source with a Renoir film; HUMAN DESIRE and the classic LA BÊTE HUMAINE also originate from the same Émile Zola novel.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A story of all times.
Boba_Fett113829 March 2008
This 1931 Jean Renoir French movie has a story of all times. It's about a man who falls for the wrong girl and gets deeper and deeper into problems because of it. What can be more lethal than a woman? The drama is complex and multiple layered and mostly works out so well in this movie since the story by no means is a standard formulaic one. The movie does a very good job at remaining an unpredictable one throughout its entire running time and you just never know how the movie is going to end or in which direction its heading to.

Jean Renoir was one the greatest early French movie directors from the 20th century. With this movie he makes his first 'talkie'. It's notable in parts that this was still all fairly new and all for him and there are some small clumsiness's. He fairly much keeps the same style as movie-making he used for his earlier silent productions. This is mostly notable with the compositions within this movie. Not that this is a bad thing in my opinion. It gives the movie a great look and style that also seems really fitting for this particular movie and its story.

It's a great looking movie with high production values. The camera-work is just great and the movie in parts also uses some great editing, that shows a scene from different camera angles. It doesn't do this throughout the entire movie though, since like I said before, the movie mostly keeps is made silent-movie style. Perhaps it was an early sign of things that yet had to come for Jean Renoir, when he in 1937 with "La Grande illusion", that used lots of deep focus and camera-movements, something that also heavily inspired Orson Welles, among others, which is also really notable in "Citizen Kane" of course.

Michel Simon gives away one fine performance as the movie its main character but the rest of the actors in acting within this movie is perhaps a bit uneven. But perhaps this also had to do with the fact that this was Jean Renoir's first sound movie and he had to become yet accustomed to working with dialogs and actors performing them.

Unfortunately the movie uses some of its speed toward the ending but the movie at all times remains interesting and compelling enough to make you keep watching and just loving this movie right till the very end.

A great first sound movie from Jean Renoir.

14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Jean Renoir examines the tragedy and comedy of life and creates a masterpiece
raskimono19 May 2005
I do not know what else to add to the previous two reviews before mine. The movie begins as two puppets argue about the theme of the movie we are about to see. One swears it is a comedy. The other avers that it be a tragedy. Both are slapped out of the way by another who says it is neither. Let us be the judge. The tale of a sad sack bank employee who sweats his whole life in a job he hates and falls for a low-life woman has similarities to the Dietrich classic Blue Angel but this movie has bigger themes and issues on its mind. His hilarious deduction and situational comedy as the man tries to outwit his way out of his marriage and the calamity that befalls him diagnoses the gray line that is life. And the bitter sweet ending endorses that in life, we may not get what we want but we might revel in what we need; and true happiness is a figment of mere necessity. A wonderful movie that must be seem. P.S. For those who appreciate the art of movies, you cannot but marvel at the directional technique of Renoir. The man understands cinema. His transitional shots are sublime and ridiculous in a good way propelling the movie along. And a murder scene is so effectively staged, it reminds that it might have been executed by Hitchcock himself. Long live great cinema and great directors who enrich our empathy for it!!!
19 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Red, White and Blue Angel...
LobotomousMonk18 February 2013
The narrative frame (puppet show) of La Chienne (The Bitch) certainly defies realism, which is all the more apt since the story is told tongue-in-cheek and the characters are caricatures. The title is no cultural argot misnomer as the drama seems akin to a circus show involving a hibernating bear (the cashier), swallowing anaconda (the whore), howling wolf (the wife) and vampire bat (the pimp) all thrown into the same pit together. What arises is great drama and misplaced sympathy by audiences. Der Blaue Engel (1930) is infinitely more straightforward in its portrayal of paralysis and consumption (not to sound too Kracauerian here). La Chienne is layered - almost convoluted, but without being obvious. Although the puppets in the narrative frame assert that the characters are plain and the drama is amoral - they are just puppets! How plain is a woman-beating drunk? How amoral is a drama that ends in a courtroom? La Chienne is a film that would have evoked different emotions from each audience member. For some (puppet-like) spectators, the narrative frame proves familiar and reassuring while for a more engaged spectator, deeper mysteries can be unearthed. The narrative frame is thus in service to Renoir's impresario approach to film auteurship. "What matters in life is to know the right people" is a statement scoffed at by Simon's character and to his ultimate ruin. The ending itself has a utilitarian feel (a complimentary reversal of M. Lange in many ways). "Ca prend de tout pour faire un monde" is one of the final lines in the film and underscores the teasing out of an ambiguous politics pushing and pulling between utilitarian affirmations and humanist sensitivities. As for Renoir's stylistic developments in La Chienne - there is a great use of depth of field in key scenes (especially in Simon's art studio). The narrow hallways as a mode for the construction of offscreen space is prevalent (as in On Purge). Mobile framing creeps in at the end of the film and is ironically liberating. It's most novel use is when Renoir sways back and forth with the dancing couple (pimp and whore) in the bar. There are some nice tracking shots at the police station as well. Although, Renoir is starting to liberate the camera in La Chienne, it remains in the service of character psychology and not construction of space by an unobtrusive auteur. In this regard, La Chienne shows itself to be a reasonable midway point between Renoir's silent films and his 30s masterpieces.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A timeless tale of He, She and The Other Guy
Spondonman18 August 2014
If you're someone who likes the films of Jean Renoir this is a must-see – that's my highest praise. It's pretty essential in the history of French cinema too, although the keeping of it in perspective is now absolutely essential thanks to the onslaught of Time. As someone who has loved the works of Renoir all my life I don't know why it's taken me decades to get round to La Chienne - I've had it to watch for years, but at least I've finally managed it. Advice: don't leave it too long.

Timid art-loving bank clerk with a scold for a wife who carries a torch for her dead previous husband falls in love with a woman who carries a torch for her rather violent waster of a boyfriend. Everyone is on the make, everyone is dislikeable, and everyone gets what they deserve – with one apparent exception. Michel Simon as Legrand acted his heart out surrounded by the circling human sharks, both direct and in the case of all the art-dealers, indirect. In Boudu he became a rather shabby shark. Janie Marese also had an intensely realistic part in the Tart without a heart Lulu – a tragedy that she died in a car crash on the way to the film's premiere. The gleaming photography was inventive for the time, almost magical in its spareness, and you're utterly immersed the world of 1931 its atmosphere, its people and their mores. The sound was a bit primitive, but it is in real life.

Marvellous stuff - the realism is complete, it's either a human tragicomedy or not, or a simple dark moral tale or not or nothing at all, or not. Anyway, imho it's most definitely a perfect companion piece for the classic Boudu which was to follow the next year from Renoir.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The tramp and the tramp
AAdaSC17 April 2019
We start off with a puppet show introducing the characters and the film's themes - it's a great opening. We then follow the film's patsy, the mild-mannered bank clerk Michel Simon (Legrand). He is married to the ghastly Magdeleine Bérubet (Adele) who keeps drumming home how much more of a man her previous (dead) husband was. I actually thought that she was "la chienne" to begin with. There is an amusing twist to her tales regarding the first husband.

Well, the real "la chienne" is played by Janie Marèse (Lulu) who lures Simon into a relationship so that he can provide for her, and she, in turn, can provide for her nasty pimp boyfriend Georges Flamant (Dede). Poor Simon hasn't a clue what is happening and how he is being used until the moment arises when he does! The story then throws us a murder. The film has a humour that comes into its element at the end where comedy and tragedy combine harmoniously.

The relationship between the pimp and the tart is so unconvincing that I'm afraid the film loses marks for this. Set against this, it is funny how men can bond over the dislike of a particular woman - some good moments in here regarding that.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Triangle of Love, Greedy and Perfect Crime
claudio_carvalho21 January 2017
The meek cashier of a company and aspirant painter Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon) is married with the abusive widow Adèle (Magdelaine Berubet) that mistreats him. After a celebration in the company where he works, Maurice stumbles upon a man called André "Dédé" Jauguin (Georges Flamant) hitting a young woman called Lucienne "Lulu" Pelletier (Janie Marèse) on the street. Maurice protects Lulu and brings her home. Lulu, who is a prostitute, tells to the naive Maurice that Dêdé is her brother but he is actually her pimp. Maurice rents an apartment for Lulu and she becomes her mistress. Soon he brings his paintings to the apartment since Adèle intends to throw them away. But Dêdé sells the paintings to an art dealer for a large amount telling that Lulu had painted them using the alias Claire Bloom. When Maurice stumbles upon Adèle's former husband that was supposed dead in the war, he plots a scheme to get rid of Adèle. He succeeds in his intent and surprises Lulu and Dêdé on the bed during the night. He leaves her apartment and in the morning he returns to talk to Lulu. She discloses that she loves Dêdé and humiliates Maurice, telling that the only reason she stayed with him was his paintings and the money. Maurice kills Lulu and leaves the apartment with no witness. What will happen to him?

"La chienne" is a dramatic film ahead of time directed by Jean Renoir with an amoral story of triangle of love, greedy and perfect crime. For a 1931 film, the production and the conclusion are excellent. In 1945, Fritz Lang remade this drama as "Scarlet Street" with improvements and many differences in a film-noir style but an extremely moralist conclusion maybe because of the Hayes Code. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): 'A Cadela" ("The Bitch")
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
very good but much different than the remake
MartinHafer13 October 2005
Even though the movie Scarlet Street is a remake of La Chienne, they bear many differences in the plot and tone of the movie. While Scarlet Street is very Film Noir in style, the original film (La Chienne) is an odd movie that is very hard to classify because it seems made up of several different genres AND because it deliberately avoids going the directions you think it will. While not a terrific movie (the plot lags here and there and the acting, with the exception of the fantastic Simon, is uneven). I give the movie a lot of credit for trying to be different and for a 1931 French film, the production values are good.

Although I will not explain exactly how they differ, know that this French film does not follow the Hayes code so it will seem a bit seamier than the American version and the ending is anything but Hollywood inspired. In fact, the French version is MUCH better, because the later Hollywood film "cops out" and tacks on a much more predictable and sanitized ending. Now that I think about it, chienne" means "bitch"--this SHOULD clue you in that the French film is indeed seedier.
14 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Putting the 'Noir' in "Renoir"
ElMaruecan8216 May 2017
The film opens with Guignol theater à la "Punch and Judy", the first hand-puppet presents a tale of social relevance, the second interrupts him by stating that this is a story making a moral statement about men's behavior but they're all contradicted by the third one, the master of ceremonies who insists that there's no hero, no villain in this story, it's just a sordid "love" triangle involving a "He", a "She" and "The Other Guy": a streetwalker named Lulu (Janie Marese), her boyfriend-pimp Dédé (George Flamand) and Maurice Legrand, the sucker, played by Michel Simon. What a gallery painted in black and white and infinite shades of human complexity by the great Jean Renoir, son of painter and impressionist pioneer Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Maybe like his father, Renoir cared more for 'impressions' than actual realities, there are no villains not because they don't exist but because the perception is so fuzzy in the first place and the roles are switched as the plot moves forward, Legrand is a meek bookkeeper and Sunday painter of intellectual superiority but mocked by his peers and constantly bullied by his wife, a nagging and controlling shrew reminding him everyday that he's not the soldier hero her late husband was. Legrand has surrendered to mediocrity until he fell in love with Lulu, a light of hope. He took her as a muse while she was a leech, sucking out his love, dignity and money for her domineering pimp. Not personal but strictly business, unless by 'personal' we mean that she did it because she loved Dédé. That everyone is driven either by money or lust foreshadows the dark shortcomings of the film, the notion that everything has a price, and they'll all pay for their actions.

But again, there's no morale. This is just entertainment, a story starting upon the little theater of Paris, like so many others, we're not here to judge anyone but to witness the flow of events that will cause many people to act one against another acting according to their inclination toward greed and lust. This is the year 1931 and while not a revolutionary story, under the confident directing of Jean Renoir, you come to question why it is Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" that is regarded as such a revolutionary film, even Welles would give Renoir the credit he deserves. The French director emphasized that "noir" syllabus in his name, with a main character who's resigned to a life of relative weakness to such a point it could almost pass as courage or wisdom, and that strength could only be expressed in awkward and disastrous ways.

Played by Janie Merese, Lulu is the pioneering femme fatale, a speaking version of the Woman from the City in Murnau's "Sunrise". But Renoir, almost defensively, claimed that all he wanted to do was to explore a film about a Parisian streetwalker, a job as respectable as any other because he was always fascinated by prostitutes, in a sort of naturalistic move à la Zola. And he also wanted a vehicle for Michel Simon who was then the rising star of French cinema. By making "The Bitch", he struck the two birds with the same stone and made a masterpiece for the ages, that would later be adapted by Fritz Lang in "Scarlett Street" with Edward G. Robinson.

But while Lang accentuated the pathos, Renoir conceals the darkness and keeps a certain distance toward the characters, as if he didn't want to overplay the feelings, there's not much pathos in the film, there's even a fair share of comedic moments, as if the whole thing was just tale of tragicomic intensity. He knew the acting of Michel Simon would carry enough emotions not to insist upon them and for his first major talking film, he wanted enough material to explore the actor's versatility. It is ironic that their following collaboration would explore the other side of the coin. Indeed, as Boudu, he'll play a larger-than-life optimistic man who rises above his modest condition because he's just too self-confident.That's the power of Michel Simon who defines the most extreme sides of cinema and can take you from pathetic to sympathetic in a blink of his deformed eyes.

I must admit I enjoyed Boudu a little more maybe because cinema, for its spectacular debut, needed such grandstanding characterizations, of histrionic waves but "The Bitch" is a superior film, technically and visually. Maybe it is too dark and modern for its own good, no matter how hard Renoir tries to tone it down. Or maybe the knowledge of the tragedy that surrounded the film created an unpleasant bias. Janie Marese died the night of the premiere, in a car accident. In real life, Simon loved the actress who loved Flamand, as lousy a driver as a boyfriend in the film, he wanted to drive his first car and impress his sweetheart, talk about reality being stranger and crueler than fiction.

Michel Simon later fainted in the actress' funeral, threatening to kill Renoir because he "killed" her. That's how much passion was injected in the film, the people were liars but they were sincere.What a tragic irony that fate revealed itself as ugly and twisted and wicked as the story, working like an antidote against criticism. These things do happen after all and life came to the rescue and give it a taste of tragic credibility, besides cinematic prestige.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One Of Renoir's Best
Fiahm18 April 2018
Really, this deserves higher than a score of eight, for it is just about everything you really need from a film - an original tale with something to say about the human condition told creatively and powerfully. Michel Simon is of course perfect, and so far ahead in realism than almost any other actor in early sound cinema.

The only real flaws in it are a few patchy moments of low sound recording and the sluggish pacing of scene transitions, which seem more to belong to the earlier silent era. Because of this there is a certain creakiness to the film but I find this really only adds to the charm, since it reminds the viewer that this is one of the first French sound movies ever, and a couple of years earlier the very medium itself didn't even exist.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Life imitating Art.
brogmiller29 December 2019
Georges Fouchardiere's novel of 1920 about a dupe, a tart and a pimp has been given a magnificent treatment here by Jean Renoir with excellent camerawork by Theodor Sparkuhl. Its power and poignancy are even greater knowing that Michel Simon as the dupe had genuine feelings for Janie Mares, playing the tart, while she preferred Georges Flamant who just happened to be playing the pimp! Her death in a car accident with Flamant at the wheel left Simon devastated. Renoir had apparently encouraged the Mares/Flamant relationship to aid the effectiveness of the film. Miraculously Simon's friendship with Renoir survived this traumatic episode and they went on to make another masterpiece:'Boudu saved from drowning'. How about Fritz Lang's remake of 1945? The constant compromises that Lang was obliged to make to the system and puritanism of Hollywood have been well documented. Renoir himself was to experience similarly frustrating constraints during his sojourn in America but here on 'home turf' in the 1930's he was quite frankly incomparable. Lang's version has some excellent moments of course. What of the performances? Mares is far more sluttish and Flamant more abusive to her than the Hays Code would have permitted Joan Bennett and the excellent Dan Duryea to be. Screenwriter Dudley Nichols could only hint that Kitty was partial to a bit of rough. Pointless of course to compare Michel Simon to Edward G. Robinson as both in their way were supremely talented. The paintings in 'La Chienne' are far better than those in 'Scarlet Street' by the way. Jean was after all the son of Auguste! Renoir's film is yet another of l'embarras des richesses which he gave to the world during his most creatively satisfying period. Must have a '10'.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Morally complex early French talkie
Red-Barracuda1 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A mild mannered bank clerk, in a loveless marriage to a harridan, has one pleasure in life - painting. One night a chance encounter results in an unlikely friendship with a much younger woman, who he begins to help financially. He develops strong feelings for her and believes they are in a relationship, unaware that she is a prostitute who is still sleeping with her pimp boyfriend, the man she actually loves. The clerk gives her some of his paintings to decorate the apartment he pays for her to live in, which the pimp then sells on to an art dealer under the pretence they are works by an imaginary American artist called Clara Wood; they soon become highly sought after items. It isn't long before events take a tragic turn.

This early French talkie from famed director Jean Renoir proved to be highly controversial in its day primarily on account of its conclusion which offered unorthodox justice in which bad deeds were not shown to be punished and a man innocent of the crime of murder is sentenced to death for it anyway. This kind of immorality was not par for the course, particularly in the United States, where the film was only finally given a release in 1975. Bookended with a Punch and Judy show, with the puppets arguing with each other over what the film is about, this is a film which challenges the viewer from the off. Its characters all inhabit morally grey areas, with the central character guilty of murder, his wife overbearing and deeply unpleasant, her ex-husband who she idolises turns out to be a deceitful waster, the girl who the clerk falls for essentially uses him, while her boyfriend is a violent abuser of women. There are no good guys in this story at all, with most of them actively deceiving one and other. I think it shows that the French were unafraid of making films which did not pander to easy stereotypes and moral certainties. It also deals with its sexual material with a typical Gallic shrug and overall has a pretty sophisticated approach to adult orientated material. Once it moves into its latter stages there is a murder sequence which is presented in a cleverly subtle manner which Fritz Lang or Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of. Its overall a fascinating example of the kinds of uncompromising films which existed in the early sound era before Hollywood morals got in the way of adult film-making.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
La Chienne (The B****)
jboothmillard10 April 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I had been buying the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die since it was first released in 2004, so that's 16 editions (plus five with alternative covers) across 16 years. Some of the films that appeared in it through that time have been difficult to find, and some are questionable entries, but it has been an interesting experience to find and watch all 1,222 titles. This French film was the final film I ever had to watch from any of the 16 books, an odd choice, but I went with it, directed by Jean Renoir (La Grande Illusion, La Règle du Jeu, The Golden Coach). Basically, Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon) is a meek cashier and aspirant painter. He is unhappily married to Adèle (Magdeleine Bérubet) who is abusive and mistreats him. After a celebration in the company where he works, Maurice witnesses a man, André "Dédé" Jauguin (Georges Flamant), hitting a young named Lucienne "Lulu" Pelletier (Janie Marèse) on the street. Maurice protects Lulu and brings her home. Lulu is a prostitute, she tells the naive Maurice that Dédé is her brother, in fact Dédé is her pimp. Maurice rents an apartment for Lulu and she becomes his mistress. Maurice's wife Adèle intends to throw his paintings away, so he brings them to the apartment. Dédé takes these paintings for himself and sells them to an art dealer for a large amount. But he tells the dealer that Lulu is the artist who painted them, using the alias Clara Wood. Maurice meanwhile stumbles on Adèle's former husband who was thought to be killed during the war. Maurice is beginning to realise that Adèle is not a good woman, and he plots to a scheme to get rid of her. He is successful in throwing her out when he surprises Lulu and Dêdé in bed during the night. Maurice leaves her apartment and returns to Lulu the following morning to have a talk. She confesses that she loves Dédé and humiliates Maurice by saying that she only stayed with him for his money. Maurice attacks her with a knife and leaves the apartment unnoticed by any witnesses. Dédé arrives moments later and discovers Lulu's body. Dédé is accused of Lulu's murder owing to his reputation, he is found guilty and executed. Maurice becomes a vagrant. Also starring Jean Gehret as Monsieur Dugodet. It is a fairly simple story of a naïve and simple man who thinks he has finally found love, abandoning his marriage, but the woman is nothing but a money-hungry streetwalker, and her pimp is part of her scam. You could argue it is more about the innocent male character than the "b****" of the title, or indeed her pimp, but the callousness of the scammers is intriguing, the on-location filming was an influential break from studio sets at the time, it does have moments that get your attention, overall it is an interesting drama. Good!
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A very French drama of love and passion from Renoir
vampire_hounddog13 October 2020
A henpecked bank clerk and part time painter (Michel Simon) takes on a mistress (Janie Marèse) in a rented apartment after he rescues her from her pimp (Georges Flamant) who also continues to be her lover. Both lover and pimp are fleecing the mild and meek man for all his worth.

Director Jean Renoir's second sound feature is a dare I say a very French melodrama in its subject matter, based off a novel by George de la Fouchardière. Simon is as good as ever, but sometimes the dialogue delivery feels a little leaden. Nevertheless, it is not short on atmosphere which it delivers in spades.

Marèse died young in a motor accident not long after the film was completed, ironically in a car driven by Flamant.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
La Chienne at Montparnasse
elo-equipamentos24 April 2017
How I was so anxious to see this movie after Scarlet Street to compare both, firstly Jean Renoir wasn't satisfied with Fritz Lang remaking your movie, La Chienne is more a natural story, he characters aren't artificial, they are tough as life itself, it's a dramatic comedy in general way but have some differences like Lulu portrait a real prostitute, Dedé is a serious Pimp and Legrand is desperately falling in love for Lulu and trying keeping to her, it was not a noir film but has several motives to be, ambitious movie much ahead of this time a true Jean Renoir's masterpiece to see and delighted!!!!
0 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
relentlessly bleak and ultimately powerful early masterpiece by Renoir
framptonhollis20 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Littered with creative camera-work and memorable characters, "La Chienne" is one of Jean Renoir's most excellent and emotional films, taking a glimpse at a chaotic love triangle. Haunting, sad, and occasionally humorous, this film exposes mankind's darkest depths in a way that is engaging, entertaining, thought provoking, and disturbing all at once. With his massively artistic lens, Renoir's gliding camera captures one of cinema's finest (semi) tragic figures, that being Maurice Legrand. Played brilliantly by the always likable and hilarious Michel Simon, Legrand manages to be extremely charming-a lovable and polite guide through Renoir's storm of sadness. Unfortunately, this kind character is the one who suffers the most pain, as he is cheated and manipulated throughout the film, only realizing it when it is unfortunately too late.

Within the epilogue, we are left with a character whose life is now peacefully breezing between comedy and tragedy. This memorable and painful character is now just another bum wandering through city streets, who is both happy and sad inside. He has overcome various tragedies, but has lived to be no more than a passing figure, one who must pay the price of mankind's greedy manipulation.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
treywillwest6 February 2017
This is an amazing film, one of many by its auteur. Was Renoir the greatest filmmaker of all time? No, I do not ask this question. I don't believe in GOATs, except, perhaps, in the realm of sports. But Renoir's narrative movies were, perhaps, the most "true to life" of any auteur who has attempted to capture that sad fiction.

The illusion, including art itself, always disappoints. Yet in its name we create and destroy and just this is the journey. Ultimately, any one with any courage or intelligence must become a monster. Without such monstrosity, life would be utterly offensive. XOXOXOXO OXOXOXOXO OXOXOXOX OXOXOXOXOXOXO XOXOXOOXOXOX OXOOXOX OXOOXOXOX OXOXOXOOX
0 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Renoir's austere examination of society's corrupting influence
timmy_5017 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
By 1931, Renoir had completely abandoned the innovative superimpositions and wild set designs that characterized his silent films. In La Chienne, he favored a stripped down, almost austere form of realism; nearly every shot in the film is taken from a medium distance and the camera movement is utilitarian. Even the compositions offer few surprises, though one shot neatly emphasizes a character's reaction to his lover's betrayal by detaching the perspective and filtering it through various obstructions.

The stripped down style Renoir employs in the film brings the focus to the plot of the film, which involves an old fashioned, wholesome man who is mocked and taken advantage of by everyone he encounters. Eventually, this influence corrupts him totally and he joins the dregs of society. This happens gradually enough to make his transformation believable and genuinely shocking. It also suggests that society is rotten to the core, an idea that it has in common with the Naturalism movement, of which earlier Renoir efforts Whirlpool of Fate and Nana are obviously a part. Although it's tempting to read the film as a misogynist work, especially given that the title translates to The Bitch and that both of the major female characters are absolutely detestable, it's important to note that most of the minor male characters and especially the pimp are equally as reprehensible as either of the two women. In fact, the only character who is treated with much sympathy is the protagonist Legrand and even he ultimately falls from grace. Although Renoir would later gain a reputation for his humanism, this film's portrayal of humanity is as dark as they come.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed