The Crime of Monsieur Lange | Chicago Reader

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81 minutes · 1936

Political filmmakers everywhere could learn a lot from Jean Renoir's 1936 classic, made as his contribution to France's Popular Front. Monsieur Lange (Rene Lefevre), a meek employee of a Paris publishing house, passes his spare time writing the adventures of "Arizona Jim," a rugged American cowboy hero. His boss, Batala (a masterpiece of ham acting by Jules Berry), steals the rights to Lange's stories and prints them. Providence steps in when Lange learns that Batala has been killed in a train wreck, which allows Lange and his coworkers to form a cooperative and publish the stories themselves. But Batala returns, dressed as a priest and demanding his cut. Jacques Prevert's screenplay has wit and economy, but the multiplicity of perspectives implied in Renoir's fluid direction is what lifts the film from propaganda to art. In French with subtitles.

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