Night at the Crossroads (1932, Jean Renoir)

Opens with a great mix of music mixed with machine sound effects and wildly stylish titles, but it gets quieter and more (Re)noirish from there.

Guy’s car is stolen, replaced with another. He blames his Danish neighbors. Cop checks out the Danes’ garage, finds the guy’s car with a dead jeweler named Goldberg inside. The Dane seems innocent of the crime, but suspicious on another level. He wears a villainous-looking black-eyepatch monocle and has a slinky young sister Else with a pet turtle, who claims she asks to be locked into her room when her brother is away, but the inspector finds a key hidden in there. If one goes looking for Renoir connections, the inspector walking around the Danes’ living room playing with all their little machinery is reminiscent of the Rules of the Game. On the other hand, this movie features a car chase shootout, something I never thought I’d see in a Renoir film.

Turns out the crossroads (a garage, a butcher shop, the Danes’ house, couple other buildings) is a den of corruption. Else is actually wife to her so-called brother, and ex-wife of the killer, who’s in league with Oscar the mechanic and insurance man Michonnet – so pretty much everyone we meet is involved. Gangsters arrive, just blasting away at the garage where the inspector has been cracking the case, which leads to the aforementioned car chase.

A nice twisty and foggy detective story. The first adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel. There would be over a hundred more, including Magnet of Doom, Red Lights and The Man From London. Starring nobody who would seem very famous, besides Renoir’s older brother Pierre (later in La Marseillaise) in the lead role. His assistant Lucas was George Terof of Whirlpool of Fate.

D. Cairns:

Renoir’s [camera] does move with a … sense of narrative emphasis, but what he chooses to emphasize in this story often seems quite eccentric. And by his staccato editing, directly zapping from scene to scene, sometimes interrupting scenes with glimpses of mysterious activities elsewhere, he also seems very modern. … The film has in common with Vampyr a feeling that much of the action is taking place elsewhere, while we’re not around.

“I tried to give you the feeling of mud sticking to your feet, and of fog obscuring your sight.” —Renoir