Jean Renoir

La bête humaine

La bête humaine

Based on the classic Émile Zola novel, Jean Renoir's La bête 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.

Film Info

  • Jean Renoir
  • France
  • 1938
  • 96 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • French
  • Spine #324

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the original uncensored version
  • Introduction to the film by Jean Renoir
  • New interview with director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Archival footage of Renoir directing actress Simone Simon, and interviews with Renoir, Émile Zola scholar Henri Mitterand, and others on adapting Zola to the screen
  • Gallery of on-set photographs and theatrical posters
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • A booklet featuring critic Geoffrey O’Brien, film historian Ginette Vincendeau, and production designer Eugène Lourié

New cover by Michael Boland

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the original uncensored version
  • Introduction to the film by Jean Renoir
  • New interview with director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Archival footage of Renoir directing actress Simone Simon, and interviews with Renoir, Émile Zola scholar Henri Mitterand, and others on adapting Zola to the screen
  • Gallery of on-set photographs and theatrical posters
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • A booklet featuring critic Geoffrey O’Brien, film historian Ginette Vincendeau, and production designer Eugène Lourié

New cover by Michael Boland

La bête humaine
Cast
Jean Gabin
Jacques Lantier
Simone Simon
Séverine
Julien Carette
Pecqueux
Fernand Ledoux
Roubaud
Blanchette Brunoy
Flore
Jenny Helia
Philoméne
Colette Regis
Victoire Pecqueux
Germaine Clasis
Madame Misard
André Tavernier
Judge
Jean Renoir
Cabuche
Credits
Director
Jean Renoir
Producer
Raymond Hakim
Producer
Robert Hakim
Screenplay
Jean Renoir
From the novel by
Émile Zola
Production manager
Roland Tual
Music
Joseph Kosma
Editing
Marguerite Renoir

From The Current

What’s in a Name

Dark Passages

What’s in a Name

If you consider noir as a global phenomenon, then films like Julien Duvivier’s Pépé le moko (1937), Jean Renoir’s La bête humaine (1938), and Carné’s Port of Shadows (1938) may be the first full harvest of this bitter crop.

By Imogen Sara Smith

On Film / Features — Sep 19, 2016
Vive Duvivier! Long Live Renoir!

Two new retrospectives happening concurrently on different continents pay serious respect to a pair of thirties French cinema pioneers. First, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Jean Renoir is being celebrated with a four-week series (already u…


Mar 17, 2010
La bête humaine:
Renoir On and Off the Rails

The opening minutes of La bête humaine (1938) are a bracing plunge into the materiality of the world. The flames of a locomotive’s furnace, the engineer and stoker utterly absorbed in their work, the landscape speeding by, as seen from the moving …

By Geoffrey O’Brien


Feb 14, 2006

Explore

Jean Gabin

Actor

With his penetrating gaze, quiet strength, and unshakeable everyman persona, Jean Gabin was the most popular French matinee idol of the prewar period, and remains one of the great icons of cinema. Though his parents were cabaret performers, Gabin—born Jean-Alexis Moncorgé in 1904—put off show business at first, working instead as a laborer for a construction company. He eventually followed in his family’s footsteps, though, appearing onstage at various Paris music halls and theaters, including the Moulin Rouge. This led to roles in silent films, but it was with the advent of sound that Gabin found his true calling—even if his quiet stoicism was what he would become best known for. His work with director Julien Duvivier would prove his most important: they collaborated on two successful films in the midthirties (Maria Chapdelaine and La bandera), but it was their third, Pépé le moko, that, in creating the romantic criminal antihero archetype, shot Gabin into the stratosphere. As Michael Atkinson has written for Criterion, “Without its iconic precedent, there would have been no Humphrey Bogart, no John Garfield, no Robert Mitchum, no Randolph Scott, no Jean-Paul Belmondo (or Breathless or Pierrot le fou), no Jean-Pierre Melville or Alain Delon, no Steve McQueen . . .” Soon after Pépé, Renoir’s antiwar masterpiece Grand Illusion hit, and it was an even bigger smash, cementing Gabin’s superstar status; in this and all of his most successful roles (La bête humaine, Le jour se lève), Gabin played some form of working-class social outcast, and he always provided audiences with a strong point of identification. Following a brief, less successful stint in Hollywood and a period of fighting with the Allies in North Africa during World War II, Gabin saw his film career slow down, and he appeared mostly in supporting roles for a while (including in Ophuls’s Le plaisir). Jacques Becker’s 1954 heist thriller Touchez pas au grisbi was the comeback he needed, and it propelled him into a successful second act, which lasted until his death in 1976.