Released in France in 1931, LA CHIENNE was Renoir's second sound film and the first to gain him the recognition that would soon become legendary. After his ON PURGE BEBE (a rarely seen short feature from the same year), Renoir prepared this adaptation of Fouchardiere's novel with his eye
on wife Catherine Hessling for the title role. The studio, however, insisted on Mareze, and Renoir reluctantly agreed--a decision that led to a divorce shortly afterward. Mareze (who died soon after the filming in a car crash on the Riviera) took the role of Lulu, a lovable but manipulative
prostitute whom businessman and weekend painter Simon falls in love with. He courts her and throws his money at her even though she is quite attached (in a motherly sort of way) to her pimp, Flament. In the meantime, Flament sells Simon's paintings under the guise of a mysterious American named
Clara Wood. "Clara's" career skyrockets, and eventually Simon learns that it is Mareze who is selling the paintings. He willingly forgives her and gives in to her "requests" for more money. Still unaware that she is a prostitute, it is not until he catches Mareze in bed with Flament that he
finally realizes who, in the broadest sense, she really is. He still fails to learn his lesson and the next morning returns to Mareze sympathizing with what he believes to be her terrible situation. He is awakened by her insistence that she is not in love with him and that she enjoys Flament's
company. Simon promptly lashes out and strikes her dead. Justice takes a strangely poetic turn as Flament is the one accused and sent to death, while Simon goes free. In one of Renoir's most startling and perfect endings, Simon is seen as a doorman for an art gallery that sells his own paintings.
An often-overlooked highlight of Renoir's momentous career that was well worth the 44-year wait. In the meantime, however, Fritz Lang remade LA CHIENNE as SCARLET STREET (1945) with Edward G. Robinson--a more than commendable version.
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- Review: Released in France in 1931, LA CHIENNE was Renoir's second sound film and the first to gain him the recognition that would soon become legendary. After his ON PURGE BEBE (a rarely seen short feature from the same year), Renoir prepared this adaptation of F… (more)