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Customer Review

85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The DVD of the Year., January 28, 2004
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This review is from: The Rules of the Game (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
On its surface, "The Rules of the Game" is a light farce involving the couplings - and decouplings - of an assortment of weekend guests staying at the chateau of the Comte de la Cheyniest (Marcel Dalio). Without knowing any other context, the film can be enjoyed on this level: Renoir's writing (he co-scripted) is witty and his direction is elegant and sublime. His fluid long-shots make you feel like you're gliding along in this rarified - though topsy-turvy - world; and his open approach to the actors is suffused with generosity. He never allows us to focus on one particular person, or couple, because, in this social world, "everyone has their reasons" and everyone's actions bounce and intertwine with everyone else's.
As a homage and updating of a classic French farce, "Rules" is flawless; it is, however, as a commentary on the decline of a social order that makes this more than a cinematic souffle. Shot in 1939, "between Munich and the War" as Renoir says, the film is portrait of the European aristocracy where ethical codes (conjugal fidelity above all) are not only violated, but are even dismissed as irrelevant. Human relationships collapse and reform with sudden ease (witness the gameskeeper and the poacher) and those who cling to outmoded notions of love and faithfulness set themselves up for disaster (such as the aviator). This is the domestic complement to Renoir's war drama, "La Grande Illusion", where the mournful French and German artistocratic officers, having more in common amongst themselves than with the common soldiers of their respective nationalities, lament that mechanized warfare has rendered their class irrelevant.
Both "Illusion" and "Rules" may seem irrelevant themselves in the US, which did not have a traditional feudal aristocracy. Yet both films fascinate by showing individuals attempting to survive, and thrive, in worlds where the old, comfortable standards no longer apply. If the aristocrats in "Rules" openly, and rather disinterestedly, conduct affairs with each others' spouses, why shouldn't a humble poacher poach a gameskeeper's wife too? If "everyone has their reasons", the famous quote from the film, then, who's to decide which "reasons" are justified or unjust, legitimate or scandalous?
The Criterion double-disc sets its own standards. The extras are plentiful and fascinating, including interviews from the few remaining cast and crew members, the essay booklet intelligent and penetrating, and the transfer quality of the film is superb considering the film's history (having been cut at its premiere, banned, its original negative destroyed in WWII, and finally reassembled in the late 1950's). This disc was clearly a labor of love and the effort shows throughout: this disc is worth Criterion's asking price.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 7, 2009, 6:07:01 PM PST
I am still deciding whether or not to review this, your review says exactly what I would, so why duplicate. Good Job.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2012, 10:03:43 AM PST
Nowhere Man says:
Thanks - did you get the new version? (I don't go through my review history very much: about once every three years).
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