The Crime of Monsieur Lange  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Crime of Monsieur Lange (original French title: Le Crime de Monsieur Lange) is a 1936 film directed by Jean Renoir about a publishing cooperative. An idyllic picture of a socialist France, the film is part social commentary and part romance.


Imbued with the spirit of the left-wing political movement, Popular Front, which would have a major political victory that year, the film chronicles the story of M. Lange (René Lefèvre), a mild-mannered clerk at a publishing company who dreams of writing Western stories. He gets his chance when Batala (Jules Berry), the salacious head of the company, fakes his own death and the abandoned workers decide to form a cooperative. They have great success with Lange's stories about the cowboy, Arizona Jim — whose stories parallel the real-life experiences of the cooperative. At the same time, Lange and his his neighbor, Valentine (Florelle), fall in love.

When Batala returns from the "dead," intending to reclaim the publishing company, Lange shoots and kills him (the "crime" of the title). Lange and Valentine flee, stopping at an inn on the border where she tells his story to a group of men — appealing to them to not turn Lange in. (The film is told in flashback.) In the end, the men allow them to cross the border.

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