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Dr. Marie-Line Brunet
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One of the liveliest films from French cinema’s abiding master, The Crime of Monsieur Lange starts with a couple arriving at an inn on the French border with instructions to escape to Belgium the next morning. The innkeeper and his clients soon identify the man as the wanted murderer Monsieur Lange; while he sleeps peacefully, his companion Valentine throws herself upon their mercy by telling the story of his relationship with their employer Batala, a crooked publisher who abused his employees and creditors. In a single long flashback, we learn of Batala’s mysterious disappearance and witness his publishing company turn into a thriving cooperative in which every worker has a say. For a time, a small utopia takes root around the Paris courtyard where the printing presses run and Lange and Valentine fall in love. Until Batala reappears… The Crime of Monsieur Lange is Renoir’s inspiring political manifesto, a film dedicated to egalitarianism both in its narrative and its way of taking an affectionate, lingering interest in a wide variety of characters. It is also a timely look at relations between men and women, blunt in its outrage over workplace abuses and sophisticated in its representation of women’s desire.