Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Rules of the Game (Movie Review)

Touted by many as being one of the greatest films ever made, it took me a month to develop enough interest (i.e. boredom with everything else) to finally open the Netflix envelope containing The Rules of the Game (1939/59), and another four weeks to finish watching it.

That is to say, I had a difficult time getting interested in the story, though once I got past all of the discomfort created by the lies and infidelity portrayed in the film — and instead accepted the satirical lens through which director Jean Renoir approached his material — I was hooked. I went from despising the movie to understanding precisely why it was made. Or better yet: why it's so highly regarded among film critics.

Originally shot in the late 1930s, the film was deemed immoral and its negatives were destroyed by the Nazi army. In 1939 Renoir re-edited the film so as to be approved by censors, and it wasn't until 1959 that he released the version most commonly viewed today (in fact, the original, pre-invasion version has long since been lost).

Renoir himself co-stars in this film, which underscores the daily goings-on of French aristocracy and servants alike. The common thread between them is a complete inability to remain true to one's betrothed, with all variety of spouses (rich and poor, male and female) attempting to have their cake and eat it too (excuse the cliche).

Things heat up at a particular dinner party, when the spouses and mistresses all find themselves around a common table, engaging in polite conversation with the very people that they know are attempting to steal away their spouse. But what do they care, when they themselves have secured a little side action?

The end result: a rather tangled web that aptly demonstrates the complexities of the social strata, as well as the common troubles that defy class and gender.

And as is so often true in life, the few "genuine" people among this crowd are the ones most likely to be trampled by the amoral masses.

One complaint about the DVD: this film is in French, and since it is black and white with white subtitles, I had a heckuva time following along. Never mind the four years of French I took...



Supafly Turbo Cyborg said...

...and not a single casual topless scene to save it.

Stacy said...

I am glad to know there are others out there who hold on to the red envelope without watching the movie as long as me.