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Rules Of The Game, The (1940)

 

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Rule #3 - No gay... unless very rich

Genre: Comedy Drama Romance (France)

Starring: Nora Gregor, Marcel Dalio (The Grand IllusionGentlemen Prefer Blondes)

Directed By: Jean Renoir (The BitchThe Human Beast)

Overview: High society and their servants spend some time at a chateau. Between dinners and hunting you'd think there wouldn't be any time left for all the fraternizing and love triangles...

Performance:

Just as astounding as learning that Orson Welles was quite an accomplished actor, so too is my appreciation of director Jean Renoir as the happy, cute, comic relief guy everyone likes, you know, like that odd bearded dude in Four Weddings And A Funeral. I guess I won't be rocking any boats by telling you this is perfectly acted and directed, but when we are introduced to such a fruity fop as our host in such a way that we understand exactly what he's about with the simple gesture of donning a white scarf with flagrant flair, you know attention to detail is the order of the day.
Rating: 9

Cinematography:

The interior of the chateau is seen from all angles. When great directors say they learnt the rules of the film game by watching La regle du jeu, you know they're talking about the dynamic and multi-cut takes with vastly different lenses that always seem to be looking at a different part of the room even though a two-shot would have been much easier to do, for a scene with two men talking to one another.
Rating: 9

Script:

I was worried there for a while, expecting La regle du jeu to have that English stage feel to it for the duration. It began that way, with the talking was so fast and full of detail that I dreaded a re-creation of a play. It was more like Renoir was getting all the introductions out of the way to start all the hijinks unbidden.
Rating: 8

Plot:

It starts slow but hits this crescendo of comedy and madness that I haven't seen rivalled too often. Essentially it's the tale of a man in love with a woman, who's married to a man who's fallen out of love with his mistress. There's also the servant who's married to another servant, who flirts with a new servant, all while Renoir goes around making people chuckle. Complex love triangles make for quirky comedy.
Rating: 8

Mood:

There's one scene in particular that I will remember above all others: the stand hunt. In this scene, several rich guests stand at their blinds in an open field facing a tree line. Behind the tree line are servants, also in a line, walking towards the hunters with large sticks, banging the trees and shooing the wild rabbits and pheasants forward, towards where the idle rich stand in wait. Several times we see animals responding in an almost tame manner, moving only inches as the line of loud men pushes forward. When the climax of the scene arrives, rather than having the camera capture a gunshot or two and a silhouette of something falling from the sky, the hunt is presented in full detail, in a scene long enough to get under the audience's skin. As the guests fire at rabbits and pheasants, sometimes missing, but usually killing, we see up-close images of rabbit after fleeing rabbit being shot dead, and pheasants flapping out of the sky. To think that there would be a better symbol to represent the barbarism behind these characters is difficult. To be shown in this dramatic way how the restrained (repressed?) upper-crust feels underneath it all... well that's what makes this film so great.
Rating: 9

Rule #23 No spying... unless very rich
Rule #24 No spying... unless very rich

Overall Rating: 86% (Knows 'Em Off By Heart)
Aftertaste:

I have special way of watching classic movies nowadays, and as most of you know it all stems from a bittersweet tome I own. Whenever I see a film playing somewhere that is on this list I've pretty much memorized by now, I dedicate myself to it without hesitation. Now the big book in question is full of spoilers, and after being burned too many times, I've decided to stop reading anything about the films I've rented / gone to see until after. I like doing it this way, because I really go in blind, often not even knowing the Genre or the country of origin. I like surprises, and this was certainly a nice one.

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