Jean Renoir was undoubtedly one of the greats of early cinema and amongst the most influential directors in the history of French film-making. Indeed, two films he made during the 1930s (La Grande Illusion and The Rules of the Game) are often cited in lists of the greatest works of the period. Renoir was one of those film-makers who used the transition from the silent era to his benefit. It was during this fertile time that he made The Crime of Monsieur Lange.
M. Lange (René Lefèvre) leads a humdrum life working as a clerk for an unadventurous publishing company. When Batala (Jules Berry), the owner, suddenly dies the workers take over as a cooperative. This gives Lange the opportunity to realise his dream of writing Westerns. To Lange’s great suprise, his creation Arizona Jim proves to be a roaring success. When he falls in love with a neighbour (Florelle), everything seems to be going his way, until an unexpected event throws everything into disarray.
The Crime of Monsieur Lange is a riveting crime drama, a kind-hearted comedy and a consummate piece of storytelling. Lange’s cooperative mirrored the prevailing socialist political opinion of the time and the beliefs of the Popular Front who would go on to be elected later that year. Renoir uses a collection of vivid, colourful and lively characters to paint a rich and glorious picture of a mutual society. Whilst (melo)dramatic at heart, The Crime of Monsieur Lange is a sophisticated political diatribe created with a light tough and a knowing smile.
Beautifully restored, The Crime of Monsieur Lange is released on EST, Blu-ray and DVD by Studiocanal on 27 August.