Consistently cited by critics worldwide as one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's bittersweet drama of life, love, class, and the social code of manners and behavior ("the rules of the game") is a savage critique undertaken with sensitivity and compassion. Renoir's catch-phrase through the film, "Everyone has their reasons," develops a multilayered meaning by the conclusion. A young aviator (Roland Toutain) commits a serious social faux pas by alluding to an affair on national radio. To avert a scandal, the cultured Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio), husband to the aviator's mistress, Christine (Nora Gregor), and a philanderer in his own right, invites all to a weekend hunting party in his country mansion. The complicated maze of marriages and mistresses (social register and servant class alike) is plotted like a bedroom farce, but the tone soon takes a darker cast. Renoir, who also takes the pivotal role as Andre's jovial pal and de la Chesnaye confidant Octave, deftly blends high comedy with cutting satire as he parallels the upstairs-downstairs affairs. The film builds to a comic pitch with the hilarious performance of Julien Carette as a rabbit poacher turned groundskeeper, but soon turns tragic in a devastating conclusion. The film was roundly condemned and banned in France upon its 1939 release, but years later (out of the shadow of WWII) the film was rediscovered for the masterpiece that it is. --Sean Axmaker
Infused with Jean Renoir's love for the outrageous, this remarkable film satirizes the erotic charades of the French leisure class as it teeters helplessly on the brink of World War II. Forsaking the humanism of his earlier films, Renoir mordantly satirizes the social and sexual mores of a decadent society near collapse. Forced off the screen by angry Parisians and later banned by the Nazis, Rules of the Game
stands as one of Renoir's greatest artistic achievements.