Saturday 1 July 2017

A Bologna Diary (8) - Jean Renoir's LE CRIME DE MONSIEUR LANGE (France, 1936)

The young man who introduced the screening of Jean Renoir’s Le Crime de M. Lange (France, 1936) on behalf of the now rights holder Studio Canal said it had been the hardest restoration ever done. Those who attended the first screenings in Australia back in the early sixties, when it was part of a MUFS Night Season, recalled only too well the quality of the 16mm copy on display. It wasn’t any better when it was shown on SBS sometime in the 90s. Some of those who attended the MUFS screening were actually back at the Arlecchino Cinema for the packed to the rafters premiere that for many was the last of their jobs to tick off from this year’s highly successful selection. Got that out of the way!

From the moment of the first credit there was a near instant sigh. Now we could see it and even more hear it properly. The stories of Lange, Valentine, Batala, Charlie and Estelle made me weep all over again. Once again Renoir’s paean to spontaneous community action, of people joining together in common cause and resisting ‘oppression’ lit up our lives. I’d forgotten the character of the young son of the owner who arrives to survey his business to be told that it is being turned into a co-operative. “What is a co-operative?” he asks blankly before he is informed that the man leading the effort is also the author of his beloved Arizona Jim serials. Enough said and Meunier joins the throng.

Valentine (Odette Florelle) and Lange (Rene Lefevre), make their escape
It is I think Renoir’s greatest film and one of the handful of the very greatest thrown up by the cinema itself. Here’s Truffaut from the catalogue: Of all Renoir’s films Monsieur Lange is the most spontaneous, the richest in miracle of camerawork, the most full of pure beauty and truth. In short it is a film touched by divine grace.

The 4K restoration work was done by Bologna’s incomparable L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Hopefully the new copy with its perfect English subtitles will be circulated in new Blu-ray editions around the world and peace will reign.

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