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La Chienne

Screening on Film
Directed by Jean Renoir.
With Michel Simon, Janie Marése, Georges Flamant.
France, 1931, 35mm, black & white, 96 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

Possibly Renoir’s coldest, harshest film centers on a merchant who, while walking home one night, encounters a woman being beaten by her boyfriend. He intervenes, sets her up in a small apartment and proceeds to fall in love with her. But as their three lives become more and more intertwined, a noirish decay sets in, given an almost uncanny edge by the detached distance Renoir maintains from his protagonists. (As Bazin put it, “Difficult to define, the style seems to be the simultaneous expression of the greatest fantasy and the greatest realism.”) With his framing and remarkable depth of field, the naturalist inside Renoir has found a means to suggest that human will is inevitably prey to the whims and caprices of fate.

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