Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Les Bas-fonds aka The Lower Depths (1936) French Poetic Realist Noir

irected by Jean Renoir. 

Written by Yevgeni Zamyatin, Jacques Companéez, Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak and based on Maxim Gorky's play.

Starring Jean Gabin as Wasska Pépel, Suzy Prim as Vassilissa Kostyleva, Louis Jouvet as The Baron, Jany Holt as Natasha, Vladimir Sokoloff as Kostyleva, Robert Le Vigan as The Alcoholic Actor, Camille Bert as The Count.

A rich sort of snooty baron (Jouvet) has gambling problems. He's a loser.  He finds out from his money man that he lost all his doe. To make good on his markers he must liquidate all his possessions.

In another part of the city, Pépel (Gabin) a crook lives in a flop house with other various miscreants to society. The owner's wife Vassilissa has the hots for Pépel. Pépel however has an eye on her sister Natasha. 

Jean Gabin as Wasska Pépel

 Louis Jouvet as The Baron

 Suzy Prim as Vassilissa Kostyleva

Jany Holt as Natasha

The night before the last day at his apartments the Baron figures to blow is own brains out. He goes to his study where he keeps his revolver, Pépel however, happens to be there to rob the place. Amused, since none of his possessions now technically belong to him, the Baron shares a drink with Pépel. He also generously gives Pépel a bronze of a horse. 

On the day of the liquidation as the creditors are removing his furnishings the Baron tells Felix, his servant, that he hopes that everything Felix has stolen from him over the years has covered his unpaid wages.

Meanwhile, Pépel is arrested as a suspicious character when he is spotted walking down the street,carrying the bronze horse over his shoulder. Pépel suffers the questioning of the police, nonchalantly joking with them, until the Baron arrives, identifying him as a "dear friend."

Eventually Pépel, with the Baron in tow, arrive back at the flop. Pépel introduces him to Vassilissa. They set the Baron up with a bed and he moves right in, happily joining in the seemingly continuous 24/7 card game.

Various intrigues ensue. A building inspector announces that the building is up for inspection. He eyes Natasha. Vassilissa  and her husband try to convince Natasha to be "nice" to him offering her up as a sort of bribe.  Vassilissa also desperately wants Pépel to kill her husband. When Vassilissa comes upon Natasha and Pépel conversing it only inflames her jealousy. 

Of course it all goes Noirsville.


A café au lait French Poetic Realist Noir. 710

From IMDb

Despite the horrible little world Gorky created, Renoir makes it so very watchable.

MartinHafer 6 July 2014

Seeing Maxim Gorky's play about the lowest level of society is an ultra- depressing depressing experience. Everyone is miserable and wretched and the entire production is filled with people who are complete messes. However, in this movie version, director Jean Renoir manages to make the film watchable and quite watchable! How does he do this? Well, he did a great job directed, got some wonderful performances AND used a script that changed the original play--giving it a hopeful and relatively happy ending!! While I usually would never want to see this (such as how they gave happy endings in "The Hairy Ape" and the recent version of "The Scarlet Letter"), in this it was a good thing! Giving the audience something to hope for makes this well worth seeing--not an exercise in masochism! All in all, extremely well made and the best version of the Gorky story I have seen.

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