The Rules of the Game
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Considered one of the greatest films ever made, The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu), by Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion), is a scathing critique of corrupt French society cloaked in a comedy of manners, in which a weekend at a marquis’s countryside chateau lays bare some ugly truths about a group of haute bourgeois acquaintances. The film was a victim of tumultuous history—it was subjected to cuts after premiere audiences rejected it in 1939, and the original negative was destroyed during World War II; it wasn’t reconstructed until 1959. That version, which has stunned viewers for decades, is presented here.
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In one of the excellent special feature interviews we get Renoir himself talking about how easily mankind are willing to sacrifice innocents just to keep up a belief or a way of life that is threatened in any way which is shown in the final tragic scenes as well as the hunting scene. Also exposed are the double standards where the bourgeousie appear to get away with behaviour deemed not acceptable among the peasants. Even today when people in order to preserve even "religious" beliefs feel it is justified to kill innocents or in fighting terrorism collatoral damage among the innocents is also deemed acceptable. Compare this with the sacrifice of virgins to appease "gods" like solar eclipses for example throughout ancient history. This film as a true classic appears to remain relevant today and in a way unfortunately remains timeless. The marquis' obsession and love of inanimate toys leading to his neglect of his long-suffering wife who craves attention and an ideal of romantic love that her husband cannot provide as well as the jealous love of a gameskeeper for his wife who clearly doesn't love him in return that leads to tragic consequences run parallel among various storylines thoughout this film alternating between comedy and tragedy which is probably what led to the rejection of the film by the public upon its release who couldn't really understand just what to make of this film. One line near the end when the marquis asks his head servant to put and end to the farce and the retort was "which one sir?" very aptly sums up the almost screwball nature of this comic tragedy.
Overall this is a classic film and while not perfect and certainly not the best Criterion release is still probably the best version that is out there and likely to be for some time to come.
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