La Chienne (The Bitch) is a 1931 French film by director Jean Renoir. It is the second sound film by the director and the twelfth film of his career. The literal English translation of the film's title is "The Bitch", although the movie was never released under this title. It is often referred to in English as Isn't Life a Bitch? The film was remade by Fritz Lang in the United States as Scarlet Street (1945).
|Directed by||Jean Renoir|
|Produced by||Pierre Braunberger|
Charles David (production manager)
|Written by||Jean Renoir|
|Based on||The novel by Georges de La Fouchardière|
and the play by André Mouëzy-Éon
|Edited by||Marguerite Renoir|
Les Etablissement Braunberger-Richebé
|19 November 1931|
Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon), a meek cashier and aspirant painter, is miserably married to Adèle, an abusive woman who mistreats him. After a celebration in the company where he works, Maurice stumbles upon a man called André "Dédé" Jauguin (Georges Flamant) hitting a young woman called Lucienne "Lulu" Pelletier (Janie Marèse) on the street. Maurice protects Lulu and brings her home. Lulu, who is a prostitute, tells the naive Maurice that Dédé is her brother, but Dédé is actually her pimp. Maurice rents an apartment for Lulu and she becomes his mistress. Soon he brings his paintings to the apartment, since his wife Adèle intends to throw them away. But Dédé sells the paintings to an art dealer for a large amount, telling the dealer that Lulu had painted them using the alias Clara Wood. When Maurice stumbles upon Adèle's former husband who was supposedly killed in the War, he plots a scheme to get rid of Adèle. He succeeds in his intent, only to discover Lulu and Dédé in bed during the night. Shocked, he leaves, but returns in the morning to talk to Lulu. She confesses that she loves Dédé and humiliates Maurice, saying that the only reason she stayed with him was his money. Maurice attacks her with a knife and leaves the apartment with no witnesses. Dédé arrives moments later and discovers Lulu's body. Dédé is blamed for Lulu's death owing to his reputation, and he is executed. Maurice becomes a vagrant.
Cast (in credits order)
- Michel Simon as Maurice Legrand
- Janie Marèse as Lucienne 'Lulu' Pelletier
- Georges Flamant as André 'Dédé' Jauguin
- Magdeleine Bérubet as Adèle Legrand
- Roger Gaillard as Sergeant Alexis Godard
- Jean Gehret as Dugodet
- Alexandre Rignault as Langelarde
- Lucien Mancini as Wallstein
- Marcel Courmes as Colonel
- Max Dalban as Bernard
- Henri Guisol as Amédée
- Romain Bouquet as Henriot
- Pierre Desty as Gustave
- Jane Pierson as the Concierge
- Christian Argentin as Examining judge
- Sylvain Itkine as Dédé's lawyer
- Colette Borelli as Lily
- Marthe Doryans as Yvonne
Production and aftermath
In the film Michel Simon falls in love with Janie Marèse, and he did off-screen as well, while Marèse fell for Georges Flamant, who plays the pimp. Renoir and producer Pierre Braunberger had encouraged the relationship between Flamant and Marèse in order to get the fullest conviction into their performances (La Chienne was Flamant's first acting experience). After the film had been completed Flamant, who could barely drive, took Marèse for a drive, crashed the car and she was killed. At the funeral Michel Simon fainted and had to be supported as he walked past the grave. He threatened Renoir with a gun, saying that the death of Marèse was all his fault. "Kill me if you like", responded Renoir, "but I have made the film".
On 23 October 2003 La Chienne was released on DVD in France by Opening Distribution, along with Renoir's On purge bébé (1931), Tire-au-flanc (1928), and Catherine (1924), as part of a box set. The film was later released together with Renoir's Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) by M6 Vidéo on both Blu-ray and DVD in France on 10 November 2015.
La Chienne was released in North America on LaserDisc in 1989 by Image Entertainment as part of the "CinemaDisc Collection". The film was also released on VHS by Kino International on 5 February 2002, which includes Partie de campagne as an extra. On 14 June 2016 American video-distribution company The Criterion Collection released La Chienne, newly restored through a 4K digital transfer, on Blu-ray and DVD. Both editions include a 1961 introduction to the film by director Jean Renoir, a new interview with a Renoir scholar, a new restoration of Renoir's On purge bébé, a 95-minute conversation between Renoir and actor Michel Simon directed by Jacques Rivette, new English subtitles for the film, and an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau. The new Blu-ray and DVD cover as well as interior poster was illustrated by Blutch.
- Richard Boston Boudu Saved from Drowning, 1994, London: BFI (FIlm Classics series), p.37-38
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