Bourgeois Parisian Legrand (Simon) works as a cashier at a hosiery company and enjoys painting in his spare time, much to the scorn of his shrewish wife, Adele (Berubet). One evening, he rescues pretty streetwalker Lulu (Marèse) from her pimp Dédé (Flamant) and quickly becomes infatuated with her. Sensing an easy mark, Dédé and Lulu string along the lovesick Legrand and take him for all he’s worth, pushing the mild-mannered dupe to a breaking point.
Renoir’s love triangle is renowned for being his first feature length talkie, but also gained notoriety for the off-screen romance between Marèse and Flamant, which ended in a fatal car crash. Shot on the bustling streets of Montmartre, the working-class milieu advances a trenchant portrait of social stratification and man’s injustice to man. With a framing device asserting that the story espouses no moral stance, Renoir’s satirical tale of comeuppance nevertheless affirms that “life’s a bitch!”