Bitch, The (1931) * Hidden Gem *

 

"Honey? I'm broke. Paint me another painting so I can sell it under my own now-famous name?"
"Honey? I'm broke. Paint me another painting so I can sell it under my own now-famous name?"

Genre: Comedy Drama (France)

Starring: Michel Simon (Boudu Saved from Drowning • L'Atalante), Janie Marèse

Directed By: Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game • The Human Beast)

Overview: This is the story of a meek man, the wife who hounds him, the beautiful young lady that is his mistress and the mistresses' pimp of a boyfriend.

Performance:

The cast is terrific. I think my favorite character was the pimp, not for how he blatantly takes advantage of his woman, but there's a scene where he slaps her with just a hint of foppish disgust in his face. He gives her a backhand followed by a forehand, just the way you would before dueling. Tiny touches like this throughout the film is making me look forward to Renoir's next viewing.
Rating: 9

Cinematography:

It was a touch bland, I must admit. Yes the cars and the city streets of the French 30s were decent, but besides being good, it's not spectacular. It really doesn't matter. It's not about the look of the thing.
Rating: 7

Script:

"You're no woman. You're a bitch!"

The script is the masterpiece. The way this is written unfurls so perfectly the characters that you know them instantly. By the end, you expect (and sort of hope) that everyone gets it in the neck. It's funny in the darkest possible way. Man, can people ever be CRUEL!
Rating: 9

Plot:

The fun we had was trying to figure out who 'The Bitch' actually was. Is it the wife or the mistress? Well you find out eventually, but the trip is a great one. This story is so elaborately told that something different is happening in every scene, then it all gets tied up in the end, and you find yourself wonderfully impressed by the sheer wit of this tale and its conclusion. Terrific all the way through.
Rating: 10

Mood:

The theme is shattered hopes and "Yeah, this isn't going to end well". This dark comedy takes you to the edge of human callousness, then throws you right off. The whole time I was watching this, I was shaking my head with pity and laughing at the same time. That, my friend, is impressive work.
Rating: 9

Jean Renoir is a director, no doubt, with several issue...
Jean Renoir is a director, no doubt, with several issue...

Overall Rating: 88% (A Bitch Of A Good Film)
Aftertaste:

They put garbage like Foolish Wives on DVD and they let this one go by the wayside. I know one videostore in the city that had this on tape, and they always have a copy because no one watches this stuff, it's so obscure. Criterion should pick this up! I would bet a lot of money on the fact that no one I know will ever watch this, but I am not kidding. This was fun, genuinely. Nice little surprise.

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It's movies like this that make me glad I'm following this "1001" list: you won't see this anyone else, I'd imagine. It had a bit of comedy in it, but this was a really stellar drama too.

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