La Bête Humaine (Judas Was a Woman)(The Human Beast) (1938)
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Based on a novel by Emile Zola, La Bete Humaine weaves a mesmerizing tale of a tragic triangle. Train engineer Jean Gabin lusts after Simone Simon, the wife of his co-worker Fernand Ledoux. When Ledoux is in danger of losing his job, Simon offers herself to her husband's boss. In jealous pique, Ledoux kills the man. Gabin is witness to this, so Simon promises to reward him sexually if he'll keep quiet. As this romance intensifies, Simon tries to finagle Gabin into killing Ledoux. Sick of the whole sordid affair, Gabin murders Simon and then kills himself. When Fritz Lang remade La Bete Humaine as Human Desire in 1953, he carefully copied several of the best visual selections made by Jean Renoir in the original film; what he was not permitted to copy was the story itself, which had to be heavily laundered to accommodate Hollywood's censorship limitations. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for La Bête Humaine (Judas Was a Woman)(The Human Beast)
The film has marvellous atmosphere and a fine cast, but the material, which involves brutal, uncontrollable passion seen in a social framework, turns oppressive, and at times Gabin is a lump.
Superb performances from Gabin, Simon and Ledoux as the classic tragic love triangle.
Jean Renoir's generous sensibility seems at odds with the sterile determinism of the Zola novel on which this 1938 film was based.
Renoir returns to the réelle du train with little comfort for his 'human beast.'
Features one of Jean Gabin's greatest performances -- one with even more force than the locomotive he powers.
La bête humaine may show Renoir at his darkest, but as always Renoir in his observantly caustic mode can't bring himself to not splash highlighting colors onto his preeminently human canvas.
[Renoir's] expertise behind the camera--and his driving curiosity for human constructs and human nature...elevate La bete humaine to an unforgettable filmic experience.
The central performances in this tragic love triangle are brilliant and utterly convincing.
Audience Reviews for La Bête Humaine (Judas Was a Woman)(The Human Beast)
Lovely Simone Simon (see Cat People) is a deadly seductress scheming her way from relationship to relationship. An accomplice to murder, she watches as husband kills lover. Feeling trapped, she takes a new lover, Jacques Lantier (Jean Gabin), and suggests that he kill the husband. A vicious cycle that could continue to perpetuate itself, but good ole' Jacques has a few demons of his own.
La Bête humaine is a cinematic perfect storm. All the elements (Gabin, Simon, Renoir, Zola) come together to create a masterpiece of romance, tragedy and betrayal.
I dunno about this one. It had its moments of suspense, romance, etc. The scenes on the train and in the trainyard looked great. I've liked Jean Gabin in everything I've seen him in, and he doesn't disappoint here as Lantier. But forgive me, fans of her beauty (and she IS indeed beautiful), but Simone Simon's screen persona of spoiled pouting child gets old with me really quickly. It worked in Cat People, but here it's just annoying. The substory of the mysterious syndrome that turns Lantier into a murderous psychopath at the drop of a hat seemed very "deux ex machina" to me, kinda lame and gimmicky.The ending would have been more meaningful without it. I felt like this when I saw Le Bete Humaine the first time years ago, and my 2nd veiwing didn't change anything. Basically, a little overrated.More
a french renoir classic adapted from the realism mater emile zola's "the human beast"....zola's been noted for his naturalistic and experiemental descriptions of rotten audacity hidden among society in a more objectively severe method instead of vulgar sensationalism....the film version somehow de-sexualizes the original and dignified with a more moral ending as the revival of character conscience brightened by jean gabin's decent mensch image. atagonist jacques has an inherited hatred toward women, struggling to distract his focus from strangling any woman in touch with him to death that only implies a bit in the first 20 mins of the flick. and the film centers more on jacques' guilty consciousness of being descended into a married woman's connived accomplice of murderous crime and his innocent resistance to his mistress's seduction into commiting the actual ruthless murder on her decadent gambling husband. eventually he surrenders to her ingenune-alike femme fatale charisma but what fate and his corrupted blood would repel against his wish to reunite his happiness with her??
in zola's original, jacques is more of lusicous slave empowered by beguiling female allure...also a striking creature in zola's endorsed description...and the cuckolding wife is a lecherous calculated woman who seeks every chance to have affairs....they are both beast-alike and enslaves by their own greed and lust. and adulteris are permeating in the novel...jacques even sleeps with his coleague's wife to testify the syptoms of his peculiarly pathological sexual illness that leads into the catastrophe of a whole trainwreck in the end. the end is a social metaphor commenting that all these beastly scum-men and other bystanding hypocrites should purgated by blood and sentenced to the ruin as serving justice.
but renoir's movie interpretation is rather an individual tradegy, a self-destruction as redemption sort of thing than zola's strictly dissected social criticism tainted with un-forgiving cynicism.
personally i highly recommend zola's novels...he writes those deceased society tales with bluntly sharp perspects without abusive profanity.... english or american literature usually preserve the salving mercy or moralistic lecturing in the very end, even cynicist maugham would assign some saving grace of warming female companionship for his limp protagonist as closure.
Jean Renoir's dark retelling of the classic novel by Emile Zola has beautiful naturalist cinematography, stunning locomotive sequences, and bravura talent courtesy of the three leads (Gabin, Simon, and Ledoux). La Bete Humaine is the equivalent of Emile Zola (praising everyman values) writing Crime and Punishment, as in all of the characters have hidden scars, mostly from murder, and you watch as they go from having ordinary lives to destructive relationships. There are some amazing moments with Renoir's camerawork and the acting, and a lot of okay ones, and though the finale was intense, the just okay moments overtake most of the film's running time, rendering a longer than it should'v been.
All in all, a great Zolaesque character study. 88/100
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