Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on rockin’ flatscreen.
In a lot of ways, it’s a good problem to have. La Regle du Jeu is an astonishingly deep and layered film and moves in multiple directions at once, each successfully and with astonishing nuance. This film is currently ranked fourth in the Sight and Sound poll of greatest films ever made. It started in tenth on the first list and spent most of the rest of the last century in second. Second-best film in history. It’s one thing to see that and consider it. It’s another thing to have the film play out and realize that its position is entirely justified and that second might be more appropriate than its current fourth. It’s surprising when one considers that this is a sort of farce and a play of manners of the pre-World War II French aristocracy.
I will do my best to quickly summarize this embarrassment of film riches. Daredevil pilot Andre Jurieux (Roland Toutain) has just completed a solo cross-Atlantic flight, but is depressed because the woman he loves, Christine (Nora Gregor) is not there to meet him. This is because Christine is married to Marquis Robert de la Cheyniest (Marcel Dalio). The Marquis reacts to her non-attendance by trying to break things off with his mistress Genevieve (Mila Parely) while Christine’s friend Octave (director Jean Renoir himself) tries to convince Andre to lighten up. To settle all the hurt feelings, both Andre and Genevieve are invited out to the Marquis’s place in the country for a shooting party. We also learn that Christine’s attendant Lisette (Paulette Dubost) is married to their game warden Schumacher (Gaston Modot). Schumacher has his own battle with a poacher named Marceau (Julien Carette), who also evidently has a thing for Lisette that appears to be mutual.
Whew. Once at the house, people pair up, fight each other, chase each other, try to hurt each other, and threaten to run away with each other. In the end, tragedy strikes, and all of the good times and casual infidelity comes to a crashing and sad end. I don’t want to reveal more—it’s worth seeing on your own.
As I said at the top, I’m not even sure where to begin. To I start by discussing the nature of the farce going on? Do I begin with the character of Octave, who seems to not belong to the social set of everyone else but seems to be involved in everything that is happening? Do I instead discuss the nature of the relationships here, with the idea of casual infidelity in the upper classes copied and intensified by the servants? Is the most important feature the triviality of the characters, the wastefulness of their desires and games and their essential lack of value and human character? There are so many possibilities, and each one is completely legitimate for this film. Each scene opens up multiple potential paths of analysis.
I’m overwhelmed. Instead of discussing all of that above, I’d like to go into the title. The actual translation of the French is The Rule of the Game--one rule, not plural rules. So what is that rule? Even that is open to interpretation. From my perspective, the only rule in question deals with walking away with someone else’s wife. Andre wants nothing more than to steal away into the night with Christine, but decides that instead of doing that, he must tell her husband what is going on. That, he tells us, is the rule. There’s a certain honor at stake in committing so low and base a deed. That Andre, who may or may not belong to this social set, is the only one who seems to follow this rule has its consequences, which play out in the final ten minutes.
What I have left unsaid here is just how brilliant much of the comedy in this film is. The relationships are frequently perverse and often exploited for both high and low comedy. Schumacher chases Marceau around the party with a pistol, firing at him, and most everyone is unconcerned, thinking it is part of the entertainment—and because no one gets hurt. Earlier in the film, during the hunt, people joke about a friend who once shot himself on such an occasion and bled out in 20 minutes, as if this is the funniest thing they have heard in a week.
I’ll be honest here; I don’t think that after a single viewing I can adequately examine this film with any accuracy. There’s simply far too much here to get on a single viewing. I can say that La Regle du Jeu is the best thing I have seen this year—not my favorite or one I liked the best, but the best overall film, and one of the best I have ever seen. This is one I look forward to revisiting in the future and many times over.
I’ll say it. Jean Renoir should be as well known to average movie fans as Alfred Hitchcock. This is as technically perfect as a film gets, and except for the black-and-white photography and some glitches in the print I watched, La Regle du Jeu has not aged a day.
Why to watch La Regle du Jeu: It is considered objectively as one of the greatest films ever made.
Why not to watch: If you miss the satire, you miss the film.
Don't you love it when to people can watch the same movie and come to so different conclusions? That's what makes the whole thing about movie blogging so interesting.ReplyDelete
You and I tend to agree a lot about films. I think the fact that we're fairly close in age might have something to do with it. But this one is an exception.
I watched it recently and frankly I hated it. It got a 1,5/5 from me, which is rare. I'll link the post to you here so we can compare our impressions. http://thevelvetcafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/im-clueless-about-the-greatness-of-the-rules-of-the-game/
In the post I asked for explanations about what other people saw in the movie that I didn't see. You gave a good answer to it in this post. Yet I'm afraid it doesn't change my memory of the exprience: a painfully dull film during which I struggled to stay awake.
Yeah, we are going to disagree with this film pretty hard. I can see where you get there, though. I wasn't sure of it for the first half hour, but it sucked me in and I couldn't turn away from it.Delete
What impressed me more than anything was simply the number of aspects of this film begging to be analyzed closely. The more I watched, the more I saw.
I think this is an exceptionally well-done film. Renoir is undeservedly overlooked by many--even in his own country. While I don't think it is one of the greatest films I've ever seen, it is still remarkably good. I enjoy a good French farce and this delivers a great one.ReplyDelete
This will never top my list of favorite films, but I will put it in that small list of films that I think are as close to technical perfection as the available technology allowed. Every aspect of this film has something worthy of study, and many of these aspects are worth studying from multiple angles.Delete
You have inspired me, Steve. I believe I shall repost my old "Rules of the Game" review from my old site (with crappy commenting, which is why I'm still switching things over) to my blog here.ReplyDelete
This movie... guh... just... so much.
I understand your feeling of being overwhelmed.
The third time I saw it, which was last year, which was when I wrote the review I shall soon be posting, left me in tears at the ending and feeling completely, well, overwhelmed.
Yeah, it's pretty magic. I think I could watch this once a year and write an entirely new post on it every time without repeating.Delete
Steve, I watched this film for the first time in February, and it really sneaks up on you. It took a while for it to really grab me, but once it did, I was totally hooked. The second half is just brilliant in so many ways. I think the reason it's ranked so high is how much is happening on the screen. It's a movie that I expect would be more rewarding on repeat viewings. It's also brilliantly shot. I'm with you on this one.ReplyDelete
Same experience here. I wasn't entranced with the film until I had been watching awhile. There was a point, though, where I stopped doing anything else and was completely sucked in.Delete
I don't know how to start my comment,too.This is my favorite French film of all time and one of my top 5,I nearly gave it a full score after my first viewing.ReplyDelete
In my opinion,you have to watch this film at least 3 times to fully appreciate it.First time just get the general idea that it is a great film.Second time focus on the plot and relations of characters,and third time focus on the camera movement and especially those deep focus shots.
I won't disagree. Three times is probably a minimum. I'm looking forward to watching this again multiple times.Delete
Ultimately, I'll probably add this to the list of films like Double Indemnity and Inherit the Wind that I try to watch once a year.
I saw this a couple of months ago. I liked it quite a bit. I wouldn't put it in a top 10 movies list, but I definitely get why so many people like it so much. Any movie that has both laugh out loud humor (the farce with the gun at the party) and very sad scenes (which I won't spoil) is a big achievement. I agree that it is the kind of movie where multiple viewings are probably needed to pick up on everything.ReplyDelete
It wouldn't make my list of favorites, but I'm happy with its placement in the Sight and Sound poll. I'm far more in awe and wonder at it than in love with it, but I'm a little in love with it.Delete
Well, I feel like I just came out of the stone age. I never heard of this movie before I saw it, I had no idea of the acclaim it has recieved. I saw it, thought it was fun, advanced, entrancing and only then found out that everyone are wetting their pants over this film. I will now have to see it again. You are absolutely right, a single viewing is just not enough. I am not disagreeing at all with you review, it is all there in the movie, I just did not catch it all. It is a big movie to take in.ReplyDelete
I think that's fair. If I'm honest with myself, I'm not sure I would have been as aware of everything here without knowing some of the hype surrounding the film.Delete