7.8/10
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The Lower Depths (1936)

Les bas-fonds (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 10 September 1937 (USA)
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.

Director:

Jean Renoir

Writers:

Maxim Gorky (play), Yevgeni Zamyatin (as E. Zamiatine) | 5 more credits »
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2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jean Gabin ... Pepel Wasska
Suzy Prim ... Vassilissa Kostyleva
Louis Jouvet ... Le baron
Jany Holt ... Nastia
Vladimir Sokoloff ... Kostylev
Robert Le Vigan ... L'acteur alcoolique
Camille Bert Camille Bert ... Le comte
René Génin René Génin ... Louka - le philosophe (as René Genin)
Paul Temps Paul Temps ... Satine - le télégraphiste
Robert Ozanne Robert Ozanne ... Jabot de Travers
Henri Saint-Isle Henri Saint-Isle ... Klestch - le cordonnier (as Saint-Iles)
Alex Allin Alex Allin ... Tatar
André Gabriello André Gabriello ... Toptoun - l'inspecteur des garnis
Léon Larive Léon Larive ... Felix - le valet du baron
Nathalie Alexeeff Nathalie Alexeeff ... Anna - un pauvresse qui se meurt
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Storyline

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 <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Awarded the French Critics Prize as the "Best Film of the Year" See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French

Release Date:

10 September 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Lower Depths See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Films Albatros See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Additional awards:
  • Second Prize at the International Film Festival (USA, 1937)
  • Movie Times Award (Japan, 1937).
See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

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 »

Crazy Credits

The last scene zooms out and fades away to the end title: 'FIN'. See more »

Connections

Version of Nachtasyl (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Title unknown
Lyrics by Charles Spaak
Sung by Irène Joachim
See more »

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User Reviews

Renoir Does Gorky

Jean Renoir's The Lower Depths is centered around a contrast in personalities. Jean Gabin, the great proletarian star, plays Pepel, a petty thief who remains jovial despite his restless desire to escape his deprived circumstances. While on a robbery job, Pepel meets The Baron, a disgraced nobleman, and the two strike up a friendship. These two men could not be more diametrically opposed, both in their social circumstances and their bearing. Pepel carries himself with the casual ease of a man who knows who he is, who's possessed of a basic trust in himself. The Baron, on the other hand, moves like he's perpetually running to the bathroom, his bowels - and his entire soul - afflicted with a painful case of tightness. The contrast between these two personalities, one open to life and the other closed off, is made all the more explicit by the differing acting styles of the two performers. No one was ever more natural than Gabin, with his understated charm and leonine presence. On the other side of the acting spectrum lies the extreme stylization of Louis Jouvet, who plays The Baron as a shambling collection of strained mannerisms. There's something elementally interesting about watching this clash of styles, this meeting of the naturalistic and the bizarrely theatrical. By some weird act of alchemy the two personalities, rendered in wildly different ways, mingle so pleasingly that we could scarcely ask for more.

Jean Renoir has made a highly-detailed, richly-textured humanist film out of Gorky's play. The story follows the various denizens of a lower-class boarding house lorded over by the slimy Kostylev, who's married to the jealous Vassilissa, who loves the restless Pepel, who's in love with Vassilissa's abused sister Natacha. The Baron, after losing his luxurious apartments over a money scandal, moves into the boarding-house, and alone among its inhabitants discovers bliss amidst the squalor. This might seem like a rather too glaringly pro-Socialist turn-of-events, the nobleman who becomes happy when he's brought low, but it works because Louis Jouvet is so subtly funny in the way he portrays The Baron's transformation. He makes The Baron seem a little bit teched, which helps to smooth out the character's ascent from suicidal desperation to grass-dozing, snail-fondling contentment. The acting overall is marvelous: Vladimir Sokoloff plays the old landlord Kostylev as a Dickensian creep; Suzy Prim brings a bitchy edge to the ambitious Vassilissa; and Junie Astor plays Natacha with a Cinderella-like down-trodden radiance. These characters find themselves embroiled in a scenario that's a bit more straight-forwardly melodramatic than in some of Renoir's other '30s films, but the plot barely matters what with all the physical detail and accomplished emoting - all orchestrated with a master's touch by Renoir, who tinges everything with a slightly sour irony. The staging is strikingly assured from start to finish, the camera-work possessed of an under-stated expressiveness that is purely Renoir. If the film falters anywhere compared to Renoir's other work it's in the slight sense of conventional melodramatic emphasis that creeps into some of the later scenes. The storytelling is sometimes casual and organic as in Renoir's masterpieces Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game, but there are other times when the plot-mechanics show through. Renoir normally smooths over these rough-spots, but in The Lower Depths he seems to have left them in, perhaps intentionally - perhaps meaning to give the film a certain conventional sense of climax. At any rate this hardly matters - the film is so richly textured and rhythmically satisfying that we can forgive Renoir for indulging in a few theatrical flourishes. This is one of the unquestioned classics of French poetic-realism.


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