Monday, March 26, 2012

The Rules of the Game

The Rules of the Game (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Rules of the Game (original French title: La Règle du jeu) is a 1939 French film directed by Jean Renoir about upper-class French society just before the start of World War II. As a point of departure he began with Alfred de Musset's Les Caprices de Marianne, a popular 19th-century comedy of manners: "My first intention was to film a transposition of Caprices de Marianne to our time. It is the story of a tragic mistake: the lover of Marianne is taken for someone else and is bumped off in an ambush". He was also inspired by Jeu de l'amour et du hasard of Marivaux, by Molière, and took some details from Beaumarchais: the quote at the beginning of the film comes from Mariage de Figaro
The Rules of the Game is often cited as one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. The decennial poll of international critics by the Sight & Sound magazine ranked it #10 in 1952, moved it up to #3 in 1962, and #2 in 1972, 1982, and 1992; in 2002 it fell back to #3, behind Citizen Kane and Vertigo.

Nora Gregor as Christine de la Cheyniest
Paulette Dubost as Lisette, her maid
Marcel Dalio as Robert de la Cheyniest
Roland Toutain as André Jurieux
Jean Renoir as Octave
Mila Parély as Geneviève de Marras
Anne Mayen as Jackie, niece of Christine
Julien Carette as Marceau, the poacher
Gaston Modot as Edouard Schumacher, the gamekeeper
Pierre Magnier as The General
Pierre Nay as Monsieur de St. Aubin
Francœur as Monsieur La Bruyère
Odette Talazac as Madame de la Plante
Claire Gérard as Madame de la Bruyère
Lise Elina as Radio-Reporter
Eddy Debray as Corneille, the butler
Léon Larive as the Cook
Henri Cartier-Bresson as the English Servant

The Rules of the Game is noted for its use of deep focus so that events going on in the background are as important as those in the foreground. In a 1954 interview with Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut, reprinted in Jean Renoir: Interviews, Renoir said "Working on the script inspired me to make a break and perhaps get away from naturalism completely, to try to touch on a more classical, more poetic genre." He wrote and rewrote it several times, often abandoning his original intentions altogether upon interaction with the actors having witnessed reactions that he hadn't foreseen. As a director he sought to "get closer to the way in which characters can adapt to their theories in real life while being subjected to life’s many obstacles that keep us from being theoretical and from remaining theoretical".
The film's style has had an impact on numerous filmmakers. One example is Robert Altman, whose Gosford Park copies many of Rules of the Game's plot elements (a story of aristocrats in the country, aristocrats and their servants, murder) and pays homage with a direct reference to the infamous hunting scene, or "la chasse", in which no one moves but the help.

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