Jean Renoir Peter Cowie - Essay

Peter Cowie

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The narrative pace of The Crime of Monsieur Lange is so fast, and the changes of scene so frequent, that one almost overlooks the brilliance of Renoir's sets and of the minor characters that make up the background to the film. The bustling activity in Valentine's laundry, and the somewhat lazier activity in Batala's printing room, are utterly genuine, and the realism of the party held to celebrate the 'Arizona Jim' film contract is breathtaking….

But the film hinges on the relationship between Batala and Lange, and Renoir explores this on a very deep level. Batala becomes a Mephistopheles, and Lange sells him the copyright to his stories as Faust would sell his soul….

The Crime of Monsieur Lange is more than a murder story, it is an attack on the church (people believe in Batala's appearance as a priest and are purblind to his shark-like smile), on patronage, on class prejudice and even on the cantankerous type of military hero…. The Crime of Monsieur Lange is a masterpiece of the French cinema, a beautifully constructed work that yet suggests that air of spontaneous creation that is part of Renoir's greatness.

Peter Cowie, "Reviews: 'The Crime of Monsieur Lange'" (© copyright Peter Cowie 1965; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 11, No. 10, July, 1965, p. 32.