Film Micrœview #160: The Lower Depths (1936)

10.29.2014 § Leave a comment

The Lower Depths

Rating: Dr. Pepper.

Guuhhhh… I dunno why I’ve procrastinated so much on watching more Renoir. He’s so up my alley and so obviously hugely influential on my favorite filmmakers.

Many consider this not to be his best — and it is certainly inconsistent and disorientingly told — but hey, I dig that. And it’s enormously entertaining!


  • The burgled befriending his burglar,
  • and their later creekside chat.
  • Making it out of the studio for the band performance and restaurant sequence.


  • Grandfather was quite the philosopher! Lovely interconnections between his defense of the writer and his advice to the Baron about his title.
  • The profoundly hypocritical landlord.
  • The arranged superficialities of the policeman, the wife, the sister, and Pepel.


  • Staging in depth! (see above screenshot) Pre-Kane (now, when the branches get pushed aside for a dolly in it kinda jumped the shark, sure ain’t no Antonioni’s Passenger through the wrought-iron gate shot)
  • The spatial organization! Room to room, getting a sense for the layout of the overall building. Not quite up there with La Regle du Jou, but gestures in that direction.
  • The motif of rotating around a fixed object, beginning with the opening shot where it’s motivated by the pacing inquisitor, later just for awesomeness.
  • Fun with lights in depth, turning on, blinds going up across the Baron’s face, etc etc


  • Class, & reception of kindnesses (helping put coat on “only a servant would be concerned”, butler sleeping in grass “outside his dignity”, repo law requires leaving a chair and Baron is insulted, apple and orange but Pepel would rather a kind word, etc…..)
  • The trajectory of the Baron was fascinating, and Pepel’s inverse story of doom to die in jail but off the hook with the girl and with literal bags on their sticks, perhaps even darker!
  • Much to say about education (the writer vs the Baron w/r/t the artist; the former typographists’ convo w/ the artist about big words)











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