Crime de Monsieur Lange, Le/Crime of Monsieur Lange, The (1935)

Crime de Monsieur Lange, Le/Crime of Monsieur Lange, The (1935)

“You have the eyes of a child.”

When a womanizing publisher (Jules Berry) is killed in a train accident, the people he left behind — including a writer (Rene Lefevre) and his wife (Florelle), as well as an impregnated seamstress (Nadia Sibirskaia) and her understanding boyfriend (Maurice Baquet) — form a collective to run Berry’s company from a more collaborative and financially feasible stance.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Flashback Films
  • French Films
  • Jean Renoir Films
  • Revenge
  • Womanizers

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, “Jean Renoir’s first popular success has long been overlooked by those quick to champion Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game” — however, he argues that “this is Renoir at his best,” providing “a marvelously moving, beautifully directed and acted celebration of romance, brotherhood, art, life, and the common French men and women who are guided by their hearts.” He writes that the title character, Monsieur Lange (Lefevre), “is a gentle, passive, low-paid worker in a publishing house run by the charming but ruthless Batala (Jules Berry)”:

… who has “sexually used” “every young female in this story” and “financially exploited” “every male”. He notes that “at first we are amused by how the fast-talking Batala charms everyone into doing his bidding (the scene in which he lavishes great praise on a creditor’s scruffy mutt is a classic)”:

Lange: “What a fine dog you have. I know a lot about dogs.”
Creditor: “Daisy’s a bitch.”
Lange: “Daisy? Ah, yes… an excellent breed.”

… but “by the time he seduces a vulnerable young laundress (and impregnates her”:

… “and gets Lange to sign away his rights to his Arizona Jim pulp western, we begin to realize that he is meant to personify evil (i.e., a fascist/money-hungry capitalist).”

Peary writes that this “picture has wit, warmth, [and] characters you care about” — and “what is most remarkable is the picture’s sexual maturity and frankness. This is no Hollywood film: we see Lange and his girlfriend in bed together”:

… “men take for granted that their lovers have had previous sexual experiences, a girlfriend’s pregnancy by another man is shrugged off, an unwed mother is accepted.” He concludes by noting that “this being Paris, both men… and women… are sexual prey: in Renoir, it’s important not to be isolated from those who care about you.”

I’ll admit to taking a moment to warm to the unusual pacing and narrative of this film, which moves quickly from character to character, showing us a mélange of individuals whose various roles in the story only gradually emerge as clear — but once we understand that Batala is, as Peary writes, the unambiguous villain of the piece (capitalist evil personified), we become more intrigued by how events will fall out — especially knowing from the outset (this is a flashback film with a give-away title) that Lange is being pursued for committing a crime, and that a priest Batala meets on the train will likely end up playing a role of some kind:

This fable about collective support in the face of oppression remains a powerful little tale, and is well worth viewing as an introduction to Renoir’s work.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a fine early classic by Renoir.


  • Genuine Classic
  • Important Director


One thought on “Crime de Monsieur Lange, Le/Crime of Monsieur Lange, The (1935)

  1. First viewing. Must-see, for its place in cinema history and a representative example of Renoir’s work.

    What a firecracker of a film! I was pleasantly surprised since I’ve not been all that drawn to Renoir films. This one stands out – mainly for its breakneck speed, its inventive visual construction throughout and its ability in keeping the viewer engaged. One can’t help but pay attention.

    And one can’t help but think it possible that Howard Hawks may have seen it and taken inspiration for ‘His Girl Friday’; there is a similarity in frenetic tone and kinetic pacing.

    The story is governed by two things: money and sex (mon Dieu, the sex!; a casual attitude, a candid depiction!).

    Overall, the acting may be somewhat surface (and merely in service to the plot) but Berry leans more toward depth and is memorably oily and despicable.

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