Jean Renoir

The Lower Depths

The Lower Depths

Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa, two of cinema's greatest directors, transform Maxim Gorky's classic proletariat play The Lower Depths in their own ways for their own times. Renoir, working amidst the rise of Hitler and the Popular Front in France, had need to take license with the dark nature of Gorky's source material, softening its bleak outlook. Kurosawa, firmly situated in the postwar world, found little reason for hope. He remained faithful to the original with its focus on the conflict between illusion and reality—a theme he would return to over and over again. Working with their most celebrated actors (Gabin with Renoir; Mifune with Kurosawa), each film offers a unique look at cinematic adaptation—where social conditions and filmmaking styles converge to create unique masterpieces.

Film Info

  • Jean Renoir
  • France
  • 1936
  • 89 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • French

Available In

Collector's Set

The Lower Depths

The Lower Depths

DVD Box Set

2 Discs

$31.96

The Lower Depths
Cast
Jean Gabin
Pépel (the thief)
Suzy Prim
Vassilissa Kostylyov (the landlady)
Junie Astor
Natasha (her sister)
Vladimir Sokoloff
Kostylyov (her husband)
Louis Jouvet
The baron (the gambler)
Robert Le Vigan
The actor
Jany Holt
Nastia (the prostitute)
Paul Temps
Satine
Robert Ozanne
Jabot
Henri Saint-Isle
Kletsch (Anna’s husband)
Nathalie Alexeff
Anna
André Gabriello
The inspector
Léon Lavine
Felix (the servant)
Maurice Baquet
Alouchka (the musician)
Camille Bert
The count
René Génin
Luka (the pilgrim)
Credits
Director
Jean Renoir
Writer, original play
Maxim Gorky
Writers, scenario
Jacques Companeez
Writers, scenario
Jean Renoir
Writers, scenario
Charles Spaak
Writers, scenario
Eugene Zamiatine
Producer
Alexandre Kamenka
Cinematography
Fédote Bourgasoff
Editing
Marguerite Renoir
Music
Jean Wiener
Sound
Robert Ivonnet

From The Current

Jean Renoir’s The Lower Depths

In 1936 the rise of Hitler in Germany and the Popular Front in France created within the French Left a new sense of solidarity with the Soviet Union. In that context the Russian immigrant producer Alexander Kamenka asked Jean Renoir to direct a film …

By Alexander Sesonske


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.