“You’re no woman. You’re a bitch. You lick the hand that feeds you — and the hand that beats you, too!”
A henpecked husband (Michel Simon) falls in love with a deceptive prostitute (Janie Marese) who milks him for money, sells his amateur paintings under her own name, and maintains a clandestine relationship with her pimp boyfriend (Georges Flamant).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Femmes Fatales
- French Films
- Henpecked Husbands
- Jean Renoir Films
- Love Triangle
Jean Renoir’s second “talkie” film — remade by Fritz Lang in 1945 as Scarlet Street — marked the leading-role debut of jowly Michel Simon. Simon is simply brilliant here, playing a man who can’t seem to win: he’s henpecked by his insufferable wife on one side, cuckolded and plagiarized by his duplicitous lover on the other. Yet despite the fact that Simon seems to be headed straight from the frying pan into the fire — and must ultimately pay dearly for his brief foray into misguided adultery — at least he’s taking control of his life for the first time; we can’t help but watch his downfall with both fascination and pity.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Michel Simon’s memorable performance as the cuckolded, love-struck painter
- Janie Marese as the duplicitous prostitute who causes Simon’s downfall
- Creative camera work
Yes. This early French version of Scarlet Street is arguably Jean Renoir’s first masterpiece, and remains must-see viewing. Peary lists it in the back of his book as both a Personal Recommendation and a film with historical significance.
- Foreign Gem
- Important Director
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)