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La Chienne

(French 1931 b 94')

En: 8 Ed: 7

Jean Renoir directed this well made tragicomedy about a hen-pecked husband of limited social skills who falls in love with a prostitute.

Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon) helps Lulu after her drunk pimp Dédé hits her. She says she has been with him for three years. Maurice's wife Adele scolds him for getting home late and for leaving his paintings laying around. Maurice sets up Lulu in an apartment and puts his paintings there. He wants to sleep with her but has to get home. Dédé asks Lulu for money and takes two paintings, which art dealers decide to ascribe to "Clara Wood." Maurice sees them in a shop window and asks questions. Lulu gives money she got from Maurice to Dédé; but the selfish Dédé won't even give her 300 francs for a dress.

Maurice meets Alexis, the supposed late husband of his wife, and he explains he pretended to be dead to get away from her. Alexis asks for money from Maurice, who tells him how he can steal money from the cupboard he's been taking from himself. When Alexis comes in at midnight, Adele arouses the neighbors; but Maurice says that he has been caught with this woman's husband. As he reveals the long-lost Alexis, Adele is astounded. Maurice leaves, glad to be free, but finds Lulu in bed with Dédé; he walks out sadly. Having lost the income source, Dédé leaves Lulu. Maurice returns to Lulu, and she asks for more paintings. She tells him that it was all for the money and that she loves Dédé. Maurice calls her a bitch (la chienne) and pleads with her; but she laughs at him. Maurice kills her, but the police arrest Dédé and release Maurice after questioning him, thinking he is too upstanding to have committed such a crime. Maurice is suspected of embezzling and is fired from his cashier job. The trial brings out that Dédé had a bad army record and was a pimp. He denies he murdered Lulu, but he is convicted and sentenced to death. In the epilog we see Maurice with a gray beard, and he tells Alexis he has become a drunk, a thief, and a hobo. Someone has just bought one of his paintings from a shop, and he is happy to have found 20 francs on the street.

Ironically Lulu is called the bitch even though she tried to please everyone. The real shrew is Maurice's wife Adele, who won't even let her husband spend his own money. Dédé is the most selfish; yet he is wrongly executed. Renoir has left us with absurd results that are not unlike life itself.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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