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Le crime de Monsieur Lange (Jean Renoir, 1936)

Saturday, July 22, 2017 - 18:00 to 19:30
CINEMATEK (PLATEAU), BRUSSELS

 

The day before his death, André Bazin wrote one of his best essays - the long analysis of Le Crime de M. Lange - having watched the film on television from his bed. Below you can read an excerpt from the English translation of his unfinished, posthumous book on Renoir. Click on Bazin’s diagram to enlarge it. 

 

“Let us recall that the original scenario was called ‘Sur la Cour.’ The general idea of the film is to bring together around this courtyard a certain number of characters and activities and to depict the little community … Given this physical disposition of the set, it is clear that, while the deep-focus shot would be the appropriate technique for action at the periphery, only the pan would be logical for action observed from the courtyard.

Renoir took this concept to its logical conclusion in a stroke of genius which brilliantly synthesizes the whole spatial structure of the film: the 360-degree pan which follows Lange from Batala’s office, through the workshop, down the steps and onto the stoop, continuing counterclockwise as he walks across to the right and out of the camera’s line of vision, and sweeping the entire courtyard before coming full circle to pick up Lange again at the fountain where he has gone to kill Batala. 

This stunning turn of the camera, apparently contrary to all logic, has perhaps psychological or dramatic justification (it gives an impression of dizziness, of madness, of suspense), but its real raison d’être is more germane to the conception of the film: it is the pure spatial expression of the entire mise en scène

An ‘imperfect’ film, Le crime de M. Lange is nonetheless one of Renoir’s most beautiful works and one of the most representative of his genius and talents. Personally. I would not rank it far from La règle du jeu, for which it is a rather detailed outline. In any case it is, along with the sublime Partie de campagne, one of the most ‘charming’ of Renoir’s films.”

 

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