The Crime of Monsieur Lange Screen 10 articles

The Crime of Monsieur Lange

1936

The Crime of Monsieur Lange Poster
  • Batala, the evil yet charming publisher, probably represents many of the conniving producers Renoir encountered in that epoch. Even when Jacques Prevert's pretentious dialogue tends to inflate Batala into a Don Juanish Hitler, Renoir's relentless humanism preserves the ambiguity of the characterization. When Lange shoots Batala, there is no ideological jubilation, no orgasmic fantasy release. Renoir's camera lingers on the dying man in his incongruous priest's robes.

  • Jacques Prevert's screenplay has wit and economy, but it is the multiplicity of points of view implied in Renoir's fluid direction that lifts the film from propaganda to art.

  • For an anglophone audience, even when the subtitles communicate the dialogue accurately, the pace of the interaction and the impeccable timing of the delivery of the lines are lost. Thus the wit that is a key component of the hypnotic power of Jules Berry as Batala (in Le Crime de Monsieur Lange [1936]), one of the greatest performances in all cinema, is largely dissipated.

  • Jean Renoir creates an elegantly fluid and deceptively lyrical, yet trenchant, complexly interwoven, and socially incisive portrait of exploitation, community, mutualism, and justice in The Crime of Monsieur Lange.

  • Renoir is likely the finest filmmaker to ever link narratives of complex human beings to progressive socio-political readings. And The Crime of Monsieur Lange is an exemplum of this skill with unsurpassed charm to boot. Prévert’s script is so light on its feet, so “French,” what with its whimsy and deep romance and periodic invocations of the spirit of “liberté, égalité, fraternité.” This is the sort of film that leaves one, smiling, with the conviction that sometimes crime does indeed pay.

  • It's both a remarkable forerunner of political changes to come and a sign of stiffening battle lines... But what’s extraordinary about “The Crime of Monsieur Lange” is that it makes the predatory boss immensely appealing: the actor who plays him, Jules Berry, is a bluff, vigorous, excitingly hot-blooded and good-humored actor, who, Renoir said, improvised most of his lines (and they’re good ones).

  • ++

    My Journey Through French Cinema: Bertrand Tavernier
    May 16, 2016 |

    With his cleverness and intuition, [Renoir] managed to create an impression of naturalness, and an astounding sense of improvisation, as if the camera just happened to be there transcending a screenplay that was often followed almost to the letter.

  • The movie crackles with life and incident, every nook and cranny of this little courtyard an opportunity for storytelling, and Renoir and his DP Jean Bachelet keep the camera moving to catch each development. This peaks in the final sequence with a brilliantly staged 360 degree pan that encompasses every floor of the office building and the entirety of the courtyard, ending in the fateful crime of the title.

  • Batala is easily read as a comic-opera fascist, and Lange as an unwitting working-class hero. The sense of solidarity is infectious. A current equivalent would be the mordantly humorous cinema of Aki Kaurismäki. But the spontaneity of an extended drunken dance by Marcel Lévesque (a comic foil in Louis Feuillade’s silent serials) and the joyously imperfect moving camera are pure Renoir.

  • MONSIEUR LANGE finds Renoir languidly tergiversating the exaggerated contrasts that characterize his early career: Batala is magnetizing (his secretary is passionately in love with him, and he counts Valentine amongst his previous conquests), and even the film’s tone strays from its ultimately jubilant spirit—see both the rape of Estelle and subsequent death of her child . . . and the titular murder, weaved seamlessly into the film’s rhapsodic fabric.

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