WriterJean Renoir, Georges de La Fouchardiere Release dateNovember 19, 1931 ProducersPierre Braunberger, Roger Richebe CastMichel Simon (Maurice Legrand), Janie Marèse (Lucienne 'Lulu' Pelletier (as Janie Marèze)), Georges Flamant (Andre 'Dédé' Govain), Magdeleine Bérubet (Adèle Legrand), Roger Gaillard (Alexis Godard), Jean Gehret (Dugodet) Similar moviesMichel Simon movies, Directed by Jean Renoir, Dramas
La Chienne (The Bitch) is a 1931 French film by director Jean Renoir. It is the second sound film by the director and the twelfth film of his career. The literal English translation of the film's title is "The Bitch", although the movie was never released under this title. It is often referred to in English as Isn't Life a Bitch? The film was remade by Fritz Lang in the United States as Scarlet Street (1945).
La Chienne was released by The Criterion Collection on both Blu-ray and DVD, newly restored in 4K, on June 14, 2016.
Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon), a meek cashier and aspirant painter, is miserably married to Adèle, an abusive woman who mistreats him. After a celebration in the company where he works, Maurice stumbles upon a man called André "Dédé" Jauguin (Georges Flamant) hitting a young woman called Lucienne "Lulu" Pelletier (Janie Marèse) on the street. Maurice protects Lulu and brings her home. Lulu, who is a prostitute, tells to the naive Maurice that Dêdé is her brother but he is actually her pimp. Maurice rents an apartment for Lulu and she becomes her mistress. Soon he brings his paintings to the apartment since Adèle intends to throw them away. But Dêdé sells the paintings to an art dealer for a large amount telling that Lulu had painted them using the alias Claire Bloom. When Maurice stumbles upon Adèle's former husband who was supposed dead in the war, he plots a scheme to get rid of Adèle. He succeeds in his intent, only to discover Lulu and Dêdé in bed during the night. Shocked, he leaves but returns in the morning to talk to Lulu. She confesses that she loves Dêdé and humiliates Maurice, telling that the only reason she stayed with him was his money. Maurice kills Lulu and leaves the apartment with no witness. Dêdé arrives moments later and discovers that Lulu has been murdered. Dêdé is blamed for Lulu's murder due to his reputation while Maurice goes on to lose his status in society and becomes a homeless vagrant.
Cast (in credits order)
Michel Simon as Maurice Legrand
Janie Marèse as Lucienne 'Lulu' Pelletier
Georges Flamant as André 'Dédé' Jauguin
Magdeleine Bérubet as Adèle Legrand
Roger Gaillard as Sergeant Alexis Godard
Jean Gehret as Dugodet
Alexandre Rignault as Langelarde
Lucien Mancini as Wallstein
Marcel Courmes as Colonel
Max Dalban as Bernard
Henri Guisol as Amédée
Romain Bouquet as Henriot
Pierre Desty as Gustave
Jane Pierson as the Concierge
Christian Argentin as Examining judge
Sylvain Itkine as Dédé's lawyer
Colette Borelli as Lily
Marthe Doryans as Yvonne
Production and aftermath
In the film Michel Simon falls in love with Janie Marèse, and he did off-screen as well, while Marèse fell for Georges Flamant, who plays the pimp. Renoir and producer Pierre Braunberger had encouraged the relationship between Flamant and Marèse in order to get the fullest conviction into their performances (La Chienne was Flamant's first acting experience). After the film had been completed Flamant, who could barely drive, took Marèse for a drive, crashed the car and she was killed. At the funeral Michel Simon fainted and had to be supported as he walked past the grave. He threatened Renoir with a gun, saying that the death of Marèse was all his fault. "Kill me if you like", responded Renoir, "but I have made the film".
On October 23, 2003, La Chienne was released on DVD in France by Opening Distribution, along with Renoir's On purge bébé (1931), Tire-au-flanc (1928), and Catherine (1924), as part of a box set. The film was later released together with Renoir's Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) by M6 Vidéo on both Blu-ray and DVD in France on November 10, 2015.
La Chienne was released in North America on LaserDisc in 1989 by Image Entertainment as part of the "CinemaDisc Collection". The film was also released on VHS by Kino International on February 5, 2002, which includes Partie de campagne as an extra. On June 14, 2016, American video-distribution company The Criterion Collection released La Chienne, newly restored through a 4K digital transfer, on Blu-ray and DVD. Both editions include a 1961 introduction to the film by director Jean Renoir, a new interview with a Renoir scholar, a new restoration of Renoir's On purge bébé, a 95-minute conversation between Renoir and actor Michel Simon directed by Jacques Rivette, new English subtitles for the film, and an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau. The new Blu-ray and DVD cover as well as interior poster was illustrated by Blutch.