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Thursday, May 22, 2008

LA BETE HUMAINE (1938)


Jean Renoir’s proto-noir based on about a third of Zola’s fatalistic novel (an absolute stunner about a train engineer dogged by inherited violent tendencies with an unforgettable blackout ending) was an artistic stretch into narrative suspense, sexual torment & murder, made right at the great man’s humanistic, Popular Front prime. There are patches of over-acting and a background score that’s alternately inconsistent & insistent. But this popular success largely stays on track, with great outside-the-studio location shooting for the superb train sequences and iconic perfs from Jean Gabin, Simone Simon & Carette, who cooks a mean omelette. Renoir gives himself a nice cameo and managed to hire most of his extended family on the tech side. When you've got those Renoir genes in your DNA, nepotism is nothing to complain about.

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