“What happens with great actors, and consequently with Michel Simon, is that they unmask you, bring dreams that you’ve had, but haven’t expressed, to light.” —Renoir
In La Chienne, Michel Simon is an unhappily married middle-aged bank clerk whose only passion in life is painting, which he does in his spare time, until he becomes obsessed with a prostitute (Janie Marèze). She plays him for the tragic sucker he is. Unlike Fritz Lang’s remake, Scarlet Street, as Bertrand Augst points out, Renoir’s protagonist has no remorse. The film is infused with a sado-masochistic sexuality that is both heightened and tempered by Renoir’s camera, which (Renoir said) followed “the slightest detour of [Simon’s] thoughts”—through windows, through time, truly through depth of field. In Renoir’s first major sound film, shot on location, sync (rather than mixed) sound is brilliantly used: “Not only is the caustic criticism of French society most explicitly depicted in the mise-en-scène, but the soundtrack dramatizes very effectively the underlying social conflicts which characterize this society.” (Augst) —BAM/PFA
The son of the painter Auguste Renoir, Jean Renoir became one of France’s most important and respected filmmakers during the middle of the 20th century. A Philosophy and Math student, Renoir became a cavalryman, but was invalided out of the army before World War I. Later, he married a model and aspiring actress, and, following the death of his father and the acquisition of an inheritance, set up his own production company to produce movies for his wife. Renoir learned from these early experiences of financing movies and watching other films, and became a director in 1924. With the advent of sound, Renoir’s career was quickly made with a series of profitable films, including La Chienne (1931), a savage and dark drama about a man’s self-destruction, which was later remade by Fritz Lang as Scarlet Street. Renoir’s subsequent films, including The Lower Depths (1936) and Grand Illusion (1937), were among the finest made in France before the war, and were well acknowledged at the time of… read more
Aquí todo es pasajero: la comedia, el drama, el amor y la fortuna. "La chienne" es una historia que tiene un protagonista simpático, pero que también provoca rechazo. Es entrañable y a la vez patético. Jean Renoir aquí no usa el lenguaje poético ni lírico que aplicaba en anteriores filmes, pero si hace uso libre del movimiento de cámara. Renoir tiene lenguaje fílmico, mucha cordura para contemplar sin morbo.
Brutal stuff. It must have been hilarious to witness the reactions of Will Hays and co. when they viewed the film for the American market. Michel Simon once again delivers a memorable performance in the leading role. Renoir is always at his best when he's showing us the dark side of human nature, the greed and the lust and what we are capable of doing under certain circumstances or when life deals you a bad hand.