A man and a woman arrive in a cafe-hotel near the Belgian frontier. The customers recognize the man from the police description. His name is Amedee Lange, and he murdered Batala in Paris. ...
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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 description. His name is Amedee Lange, and he murdered Batala in Paris. His ladyfriend Valentine tells the whole story: Lange was an employee in Batala's little printing works. Batala was a real bastard, swindling everyone, 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 »
Jean Renoir is one of the classic French directors and films like La Grande Illusion and The Human Beast show that. This film, The Crime of Monsieur Lange, is not one of the man's best films; but it's still a more than adequate example of French film-making in the 1930's. Adapted from a story by Jean Castanyer (the same man that wrote the story for Renoir's earlier film 'Boudu Saved from Drowning'), The Crime of Monsieur Lange tells the story of a man and woman that bed down in a hotel for the night. The man is recognised by the patrons as being the same man that killed another man, but before they can turn him in; the woman decides to tell the story of exactly why her man is a murderer and then let the customers decide whether or not he should be convicted. This premise offers an interesting base for a film, as themes of justice and morality can easily be tied in; but this is the film's main problem. While Renoir presents the story behind the murder in an interesting way, we never really get into whether or not the protagonist should be convicted.
The film is left open ended, probably so that the audience can 'make their own minds up' about the events; but this idea is never really explored and it's a shame because it could have presented a very interesting backbone for the movie. Quite what Renoir's intentions were for this film, therefore, are rather quite muddled. The film is never exciting enough to be considered a straight thriller, the story isn't deep enough for it to be a deep and complex drama, and we're not presented with enough themes for it to be viewed as a cross section of justice and morality. Jean Renoir seems to have been too much of a complex man to have simply intended this film as a quick Saturday-morning style drama, and themes of living in France at the time aside, that's pretty much what this is. The actual drama in the film is good, however, with the actors giving life to their characters through realistic acting. Renoir's direction is as assured and as vivacious as ever, and you really get the impression with this man that he really puts his back into making films. This certainly isn't a bad movie; but it's not great either. Most people, like me, would probably expect a little more from Renoir...but it's still worth seeing.
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