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Film / La Chienne

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La Chienne ("The Bitch") is a 1931 film directed by Jean Renoir.

Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon) is a meek, timid cashier for a hosiery company. His life isn't a particularly happy one—his coworkers don't respect him, and at home, he's shackled to his wife Adèle, who despises him and compares him unfavourably with her deceased first husband, Sergeant Alexis Godard. His only joy is painting, which he does as a hobby. On the way home from a company party, he sees one André "Dédé" Jauguin (Georges Flamant) smacking around an attractive young woman named Lucienne "Lulu" Pelletier (Janie Marèse). Maurice knocks André down and escorts Lulu home.

Maurice is a gentleman but extremely naive, and doesn't pick up on the fact that Lulu is a prostitute and André is her pimp. Lulu is deeply in love with André despite the fact that he's a creep and a lout who is physically abusive to her. She doesn't like Maurice at all but pretends to be his girlfriend so André can bleed him for money. When Maurice gives her his paintings, Lulu and André pass them off as hers and sell them, making quite a bit of money. Eventually Maurice finds out how he was deceived, with tragic consequences.

This film received a highly faithful American remake, Scarlet Street, in 1945, directed by Fritz Lang.


  • Asshole Victim: Lulu is a liar and a thief who ruthlessly manipulates poor dumb Maurice. André is worse, a pimp, woman-beater, and all-around scumbag. They both meet dire fates.
  • Blackmail: Alexis attempts this, threatening to reveal that he is still alive unless Maurice pays him off. He miscalculates, as Maurice is only too thrilled to get out of his awful marriage after finding out Adèle's first husband isn't dead.
  • Cassandra Truth: Throughout his interrogation and trial, André protests that he is innocent of Lulu's murder - which he is, her real murderer being Maurice. However, because of his profession as a pimp and his extensive criminal record, the jury do not believe him, and he is convicted and executed.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Lulu, who was hit by André, gives the standard "I bumped into a door" excuse when Maurice sees the bruise.
  • Distant Finale: Maurice meets Alexis on the street, by which time they are both derelicts; Alexis reveals that Adèle died "years ago".
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: How André plops himself under a chair while devising the scheme to sell Maurice's paintings under Lulu's (fake) name.
  • Framing Device: A peculiar one. The film starts with a puppet show in which the puppets introduce the story and the main characters, then argue about whether or not the story has a moral. The curtain rises and the movie starts. Then at the end, as the camera pulls back, the puppet show window appears again and the curtain falls.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Lulu is cackling derisively at Maurice. The scene cuts to a shot of the letter opener on the bed. Then there's a cut to the street performer outside. Then the film cuts back to the bedroom, with Lulu's upper body having slid off the bed and the pillowcase drenched in blood.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Maurice walks forlornly out into a pouring rain after catching Lulu and André in bed together.
  • Henpecked Husband: Adèle spends most of her time scowling and shrieking, when she isn't comparing Maurice to her dead husband and finding Maurice wanting. Most cruelly, she tries to stop him from painting, his one solace. When Alexis turns up alive, Maurice seizes the opportunity to give Adèle back to him.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Lulu tells a girl friend that when Maurice is having sex with her, "I lay back and think of Dédé."
  • Love Martyr: André slaps Lulu around, takes all her money, pimps her out, and clearly doesn't even really like her. And she's hopelessly in love anyway. In one scene she signs over a check for 5000 francs to André and asks if she can "borrow" 300 of her own money for expenses. He refuses.
  • Love Triangle: One of the puppets in the weird Framing Device describes the story as "he, she, and the other guy, as always."
  • Match Cut: From Adèle counting out money to André dealing cards in the cafe.
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: Lulu claims that André is her brother, to explain why he's always hanging around. Gullible Maurice buys it until he overhears their conversation just after he has left his wife, whereupon an unrepentant Lulu comes clean.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: So says Alexis after revealing that he switched identity papers with a dead guy on the Western Front in September 1914 in order to escape Adèle.
  • Stealing from the Till: How Maurice pays for having a kept woman. He's fired from his job and winds up a vagrant.
  • Stealing the Credit: When André learns that Maurice's paintings could potentially be sold for thousands of francs, he passes them off as Lulu's, painted under the American pseudonym Clara Wood. Maurice never sees a centime of the money.
  • Street Performer: A violinist, guitarist, and singer performing in the street outside the apartment building provide an unintentional distraction allowing Maurice to enter, murder Lulu, and leave unseen.
  • Time-Passage Beard: In the Distant Finale, Maurice is now a vagrant, and his formerly clean-shaven chin sports a long, scruffy beard.
  • Time Skip: "Several weeks go by" while Lulu and André are selling Maurice's paintings.
  • Title Drop: Maurice calls Lulu a bitch at the climax, right before he kills her.
    Maurice: You're not a woman! You're a bitch!
  • Untranslated Title: Even in the 21st century it would be difficult to market a film called The Bitch (although there was a Joan Collins film by that title in the 1970s).
  • Would Hit a Girl: André slaps Lulu around whenever she pisses him off, which is frequently.