[Last Film I Saw] The Rules of the Game (1939)

the Rules Of The Game poster

Title: The Rules of the Game
Original Title: La règle du jeu
Year: 1939
Country: France
Language: French
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Jean Renoir
Writers:
Jean Renoir
Carl Koch
Music: Joseph Kosma
Cinematography:
Jean-Paul Alphen
Jean Bachelet
Jacques Lemare
Alain Renoir
Cast:
Nora Gregor
Marcel Dalio
Mila Parély
Roland Toutain
Jean Renoir
Julien Carette
Paulette Dubost
Gaston Modot
Anne Mayen
Odette Talazac
Claire Gérard
Richard Francoeur
Pierre Magnier
Eddy Debray
Pierre Nay
Rating: 8.4/10

The Rules of the Game 1

Robert and Christine

Robert and Christine

Renoir’s almost-lost pre-WWII demoralising comedy is the introductory piece invites me for a first glance into his everlasting cinematic legacy. After numerous reconstruction, the extant version of THE RULES OF THE GAME is nearly intact, the narrative circles around a bourgeois couple Robert de la Cheyniest (Dalio) and Christine (Gregor), who invite their friends and kins to the countryside chateau for a leisurely sojourn, yet it is an acrid send-up of the callousness and duplicity of French society at that time, an exceptional chamber drama which anticipates the likes of Altman’s GOSFORD PARK (2001) and Woody Allen-esque moral satires.

party guests

party guests

Among the guests, there is André Jurieux (Toutain), a heroic aviator who has just accomplished a record-breaking transatlantic flight, he is greatly enamoured of Christine, and his relentless courtship would stir up her unresponsive veneer. Meanwhile, Robert’s mistress Geneviève (Parély), whose presence also ups the antes of the hysterical dramatisation in the film’s climatic running-and-chasing farce. Upstairs are in a ridiculous imbroglio, downstairs is no peace either. Christine’s young maid Lisette (Dubost) doesn’t resist the flirt from a newly-recruited poacher-turned-servant Marceau (Carette), while her jealousy-driven gamekeeper husband Edouard (Modot) determines to shoot the brazen libertine.

downstair trouble Marceau and Lisette, with the butler in the middle

downstair trouble Marceau and Lisette, with the butler in the middle

During the al fresco scenes, the quasi-non-fictional shots of hunting-for-pleasure segment bears witness of Renoir’s sleight-of-hand as an avant-garde adventurer as well as the elegant progression among a simultaneously-conversing large cast, the chateau under his hands, is closer to a labyrinth than a regal residence.

the squirrel, staying alive from the hunt?

the squirrel, staying alive from the hunt?

Buffoonery aside, the film ends up with an unannounced tragedy based on mistaken identities, which would irritatingly evolve into one of the most clichéd antics in the narrative tactics. But here, the incident transcends the fluffy tonality running on and on for 90 minutes, and from which derives a pungent bitter taste when all the courtesies are shed in front of viewers, it is only an inconvenient interlude, everything must return to status quo.

Robert and Andre, rivalry confrontation

Robert and Andre, rivalry confrontation

A commendable cast indeed, Gregor is a far cry to be young and attractive, but shimmers with self-regarding aloofness, Dalio is effeminate and a caricature of the decadence of his class, Carette and Dubost strike more naturalistic than others, and Renoir himself plays Octave, a plump friend of Christine and André, how he gets out of Christine’s brother-zone is perplexing, but it is him who inadvertently dodges the bullet on a whim to adhere to the rules of the game, so the sole scapegoat is the one who is too upstanding to live by those rules, eventually, the film scores the bull’s-eye and the irony is all in-your-face!

Octave and Marceau, leave is an inevitable choice.

Octave and Marceau, leave is an inevitable choice.

 

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2 thoughts on “[Last Film I Saw] The Rules of the Game (1939)

  1. Pingback: [Last Film I Saw] Elena and Her Men (1956) [5/10] | Cinema Omnivore

  2. Pingback: [Last Films I Watched] Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) and (1964) – Cinema Omnivore

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