I have been enjoying the Film Noir course that TCM has set up and will be making some posts here to help me remember what I am learning.
Jean Renoir’s La Bete Humaine is the second of the Daily Dose clips that was posted to illustrate the kinds of films that led to the Film Noir style.
Jean Renoir’s La Bete Humaine
This is what Richard Edwards at TCM had to say about this film:
Quite literally, Jean Renoir’s 1938 film La Bete Humaine gets off to a fast start.
Shot on board a moving train, this dynamic opening sequence, filled with realistic moments more associated with documentary filmmaking, alternates between moments of mechanical gracefulness and human grittiness.
It feels often like a poetic essay on the nature of being a railroad engineer. This kind of opening sequence connects to a long line of cinematic moments that deliberately draw parallels between the cinema and the railroad.
Such an observation can look back to the very origins of cinema itself—as seen in the Lumière Brothers’ famous 1895 film, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, a film that is consciously echoed here.
In hindsight, we can trace how these train tracks will arrive one day in the American film noir landscape of the 1940s.
Smoke and fire, noise and momentum, two train engineers (Jean Gabin and Julien Carette) hurtle headlong towards their next destination.