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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

La Chienne (1931)

Trapped in an unhappy marriage with a shrewish wife (Magdeleine Berubet), a cashier and amateur painter (Michel Simon) falls in love with a tramp (Janie Marese). Although she's not attracted to him, her brutish boyfriend (Georges Flamant) encourages her to become the cashier's mistress while soaking him for all his money. Based on the novel by Georges De La Fouchardiere and directed by Jean Renoir, this was remade in 1945 by Fritz Lang as SCARLET STREET. It's a rare instance where both films, the original and the remake, stand solidly on their own. Some of the performances in Renoir's film are different enough from Lang's remake are noticeable enough to make a slight difference. Flamant's pimp doesn't come across as vicious as Dan Duryea in the Lang film and Marese seems not as bright and less calculating than Joan Bennett's femme fatale. But Michel Simon is sublime, one can't help but feel sorry for this poor shapeless lump of a man who seems a born loser. Renoir avoids the cautious morality that was inevitable with the American remake. A murderer without a conscience? Unthinkable in a Hollywood film of the era. A skillfully rendered dark piece of irony with just a soupcon of humor. Marese was killed in an auto accident the year the movie came out, the car was driven by Flamant who plays her pimp. How creepy is that? 

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