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 »
The Jacques Prevert-Jean Renoir teaming provides for an exciting tale of murder, mens rea, judgment and justice. The narrative frame introduces the story through straightforward exposition. Great depth of field and uneven staging/blocking of characters constructs a space unobtrusively in order to make room for the free interchange of political positions of everyday people. It is difficult to deny that M. Lange isn't a call for French citizens to become politicized, but one cannot overlook the contribution of Prevert to that end. Mobile framing is employed once Florelle's character introduces the past events that led her and M. Lange into the provincial regions. The mobile framing operates to connect lives that might otherwise require the conjuring of contrived connections by the audience. The fact is that these people live and work together - that is the essence of their connection, and for Prevert (and Renoir) such a connection is enough to create a demand for respect, dignity and autonomy. Batala throws a wrench in all that good stuff and provides the catalyst for politicization. Is murder condoned in this film or is it representative of the sacrifice that will be made to take up a firm political position? (a massive issue at the time of the Popular Front) M. Lange is all about context but in the most self-reflexive manner. Even the Arizona Jim storyline has a direct conversation operating within the French film industry at the time. M. Lange isn't anachronistic but for a contemporary audience, the concept of group responsibility has distorted and perverted into an amorphous hideous blob cranking up the volume of the latest tech trinket to drown out the screams of a Kitty Genovese in the alley below. This makes M. Lange a refreshing take on politics but a depressing one, given the contemporary spectator has the foreknowledge that WWII happened and that international corporate conglomeration (Batala's wet dream) has become so dominant that an Occupy Movement on Wall Street looks more like a corporate-sponsored Hoedown-cum-Pow-Wow... and just wait for the time management game version to be released on iPhone in the next three months. If M. Lange were real life in 2013 we can be sure that Batala "getting his" would mean getting the highest amount of profit participation and controlling the creative accounting end of things when the box office closes on the film's run. It is beautiful to see a world fighting for what is right. Prevert was unabashed in that regard. Renoir was fighting for something else - both more personal and universal. In a true Renoir film, Batala would have been a more complex character... likely something between King Louis in La Marseillaise and Dede in La Chienee. That is to say, his return would be announced and his escape would be ensured at the expense of some poor bugger's own life... in a kind of reprehensible accident. What does the 360 shot mean to me? I believe that it represents a political statement about the deferral of responsibility. The Lange and Batala roles are a clever reversal of the real issue... where do you stand against the threat of fascism that will soon begin stomping faces (which it did in abundance).
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