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La bête humaine1938

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  • 4.1
Based on the classic Emile Zola novel, Jean Renoir's LA BETE HUMAINE was one of the legendary director's greatest popular successes (and earned star Jean Gabin a permanent place in the hearts of his countrymen). Part poetic realism, part film noir, the film is a hard-boiled and suspenseful journey into the tormented psyche of a workingman.

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Member Reviews (3)

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top reviewer

Jean Renoir's La Bete Humaine is one of my all time favorite French films. The film is brought to life by superb acting, brilliant cinemaphotograghy, with a story line that holds the viewer on the edge of their seat throughout the picture. This is Renoir at his peak, which is saying quite a lot. There's much to be learned from this film. "La Bete Humaine" illustrates beautifully that special effects, million dollar budgets, and all that comes with it, are completely unnecessary if you have a good strong screenplay, good acting, and brilliant direction, an absolute classic by Jean Renoir, don't miss it for any reason.

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top reviewer

Jean Renoir's La Bete Humaine (1938) is classic Renoir. It is a very well thought out, and very well executed piece of cinematic storytelling with a very interesting, and compelling storyline, and it has high entertainment value as well, in my opinion.

The cinematography is particularly good in this film. The use of various camera positions, and camera angles is very effective, and adds real depth to the film, as well as do the great close up facial shots that so dramatically relate the expressions of the actors at appropriate points in a scene. The extensive footage of "all things railroad" are memorable, including footage in the railroad stations, in the railyards, of close up footage of the trains sailing down the tracks, and camera positions seemingly right on the very front of the train showing the oncoming tracks rapidly approaching, all this being appropriate, of course, because most of the main characters are train company employees.

The acting by the whole cast is really great, but Jean Gabin, and Simone Simone both give particularly strong, and effective performances. Jean Renoir himself gives a rather interesting, and effective performance as Cabuche, a good natured, working stiff who is wrongfully accused of the murder that causes the whole story to spiral into tragedy.

This film has some of the characteristics of a classic Shakespearean tragedy, with characters seemingly chained by the stars to their inalterable fates.

Viewing this great film will always be memorable for me.

Fascinating. But maybe owing to Zola's creed of determinism in life, Renoir's version of the novel portrays characters acting like automatons, which robs the film of any real power.