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The Rules of the Game

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VHS | N/A | Slipcase
110 mins (NTSC)
N/A | N/A | English
N/A | N/A
La Règle du Jeu (1950)

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Additional Information

Now often cited as one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu/Rules of the Game was not warmly received on its original release in 1939: audiences at its opening engagements in Paris were openly hostile, responding to the film with shouts of derision, and distributors cut the movie from 113 minutes to a mere 80. It was banned as morally perilous during the German occupation and the original negative was destroyed during WWII. It wasn't until 1956 that Renoir was able to restore the film to its original length. In retrospect, this reaction seems both puzzling and understandable; at its heart, Rules of the Game is a very moral film about frequently amoral people. A comedy of manners whose wit only occasionally betrays its more serious intentions, it contrasts the romantic entanglements of rich and poor during a weekend at a country estate. André Jurieu (Roland Toutain), a French aviation hero, has fallen in love with Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor), who is married to wealthy aristocrat Marquis Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio). Robert, however, has a mistress of his own, whom he invites to a weekend hunting party at his country home, along with André and his friend Octave (played by Jean Renoir himself). Meanwhile, the hired help have their own game of musical beds going on: a poacher is hired to work as a servant at the estate and immediately makes plans to seduce the gamekeeper's wife, while the gamekeeper recognizes him only as the man who's been trying to steal his rabbits. Among the upper classes, infidelity is not merely accepted but expected; codes are breached not by being unfaithful, but by lacking the courtesy to lie about it in public. The weekend ends in a tragedy that suggests that this way of life may soon be coming to an end. Renoir's witty, acidic screenplay makes none of the characters heroes or villains, and his graceful handling of his cast is well served by his visual style. He tells his story with long, uninterrupted takes using deep focus (cinematographer Jean Bachelet proves a worthy collaborator here), following the action with a subtle rhythm that never calls attention to itself. The sharply-cut hunting sequence makes clear that Renoir avoided more complex editing schemes by choice, believing that long takes created a more lifelike rhythm and reduced the manipulations of over-editing. Rules of the Game uses WWI as an allegory for WWII, and its representation of a vanishing way of life soon became all too true for Renoir himself, who, within a year of the film's release, was forced to leave Europe for the United States.

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. He originally adapted the story from 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".[1] He was also inspired by Jeu de l'amour et du hasard of Marivaux, and by Molière, while taking some details from Beaumarchais. The quotation at the beginning of the film comes from Le Mariage de Figaro[2]
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,[3] moved it up to #3 in 1962,[4] and #2 in 1972,[5] 1982,[6] and 1992;[7] in 2002 it fell back to #3, behind Citizen Kane and Vertigo[8] and in 2012, it dropped to #4, behind Vertigo, Citizen Kane, and Tokyo Story

The film was initially condemned for its satire on the French upper classes and was greeted with derision by a Parisian crowd on its première. The upper class is depicted in this film as capricious and self-indulgent, with little regard for the consequences of their actions. The French government banned it.[11] In the 1943 edition of his famous Histoire du cinéma, Robert Brasillach wrote that the film was amongst Renoir's most jumbled and confused but applauded the biting satire, which he considered Proustian, and the technical variation employed by the director, ultimately concluding that the film was an unrealised masterpiece.[12]
Renoir was deeply hurt by the initial reception. The French and the Vichy governments banned the film for being "demoralising", and it was removed from every cinema in Paris. After the outraged audience response, distributors demanded that Renoir cut the film drastically. He edited it from 94 minutes to 81 soon after its première. He reduced the role of Octave, which he played, including Octave's brief infatuation with Christine during the ending. The omission of this complication during the ending gave rise to the notion of a "second ending". Roger Manvell's authoritative Film[13] refers to a first London showing in 1946.

During one of the Allied bombings of World War II, the original negative was destroyed, leading many to believe that a complete version would never be seen again. After the war though, pieces of the negative were found, and the painstaking task of reassembling the film was undertaken. The film was restored to 106 minutes in 1959 with Renoir's approval and advice. Only one scene was not located, one of Lisette talking about affairs among the maid staff, but this was a short scene and, according to Renoir, not vital to the plot. Renoir dedicated the revival of The Rules of the Game to the film theorist André Bazin.
Since the first restoration, it has come to be seen by many film critics and directors as one of the greatest films of all time.[14] Critics placing it at the top of their lists include Nick Roddick,[15] Paul Schrader,[16] and Bertrand Tavernier.[17] Also, filmmaker Wim Wenders has cited it as the film that got him started as a filmmaker. The film's mobile photographic style, with a depth of field and deep focus mise-en-scène, resembled that later seen in Citizen Kane and The Best Years of Our Lives. The Rules of the Game has become regarded as a classic of prewar French realism, showcasing an advancement of cinematography.[18] Empire magazine put it at number 13 in its list of "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010


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