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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Renoir's Biting Satire, 6 Feb 2012
This review is from: La Règle du jeu [1939] [DVD] (DVD)
Jean Renoir's 1939 satire on the (French) class system is, for me, something of a mixed bag. It is a film which I consider to have been (certainly, historically at least) much overrated. Whilst it has a number of very good points, in my view it certainly does not deserve to have been featured highly (and repeatedly) in Sight and Sound's international critics poll of top ten films of all-time (#10 in 1952, #3 in 1962, #2 in 1972, 1982 and 1992, #3 in 2002) As a social satire, it ranks poorly alongside Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and, as a Renoir film, it is much inferior to his masterpiece, the war satire, La Grande Illusion.

That said, it is still a very good film, with numerous plus points. The overall premise of a large social gathering at the vast country house and estate at La Coliniere, mixing the upper class set of Robert Marquis de la Cheyniest (Marcel Dalio) and their social inferiors - the servants, butlers and gamekeeper - is ripe for satirical exploitation, and Renoir hits the mark repeatedly with a brilliant script. The director's principal target for his parody is (human) conformity, from sexual, social and class standpoints.

There are many great lines of dialogue here. Maid Lisette (Paulette Dubost) quips to her mistress Christine de la Cheyniest (Nora Gregor) in relation to the prospect of a platonic relationship 'Friendship with a man? That's like asking for moonlight at midday'. Then, on the shooting party expedition, one huntsman bemoans 'That's criminal. Like holding a gun badly. Incompetent'. Then, on his plan to run off with the Marquis' wife Christine, Andre Jurieux (Roland Tutain) states with resignation 'I can't just run off with the wife of my host, without some explanation'. And then, following his sacking of gamekeeper Schumacher (Gaston Modot) for running riot around the house in pursuit of newly enlisted servant Marceau (Julian Carette), who has been pursuing Schumacher's wife, Lisette, the Marquis admits 'Marceau, you must go too. It would be immoral of me to sack Schumacher and leave you with his wife'.

Performance-wise, there are outstanding turns from two Renoir regulars - Marcel Dalio as the Marquis and Julian Carette as an almost Groucho Marx-like (in terms of demeanour) Marceau. Also superb is French acting legend (and recently deceased) Paulette Dubost as Lisette, the unfaithful wife of gamekeeper Schumacher.

In summary then, an often overrated film, but still well worth seeing and, particularly for its time, an extremely sharp parody of class and sexual conformity.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Feb 2012 11:16:29 GMT
I would agree with your assessment of the film but feel it is worth highlighting Julien Carette's excellent comic turn as the poacher Marceau. He is in my opinion a much underrated comic actor - see also his performance in La Grande Illusion.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Feb 2012 09:20:33 GMT
Keith M says:
Check my second to last paragraph re Julien Carette

Posted on 14 Mar 2012 12:29:35 GMT
Don't give the lines away, I haven't seen it yet

Posted on 6 Apr 2012 10:12:08 BDT
It's a film I had to watch several times before I really appreciated it, but that was a long time ago and I'd need to go and watch it again. Perhaps you're right but I think it might just be better than your estimation. I'm enjoying reading all your other reviews too, you have similar interests to my own and you have written some really inciteful and accurate comments over a very wide range. Keep em' coming Keith !

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Apr 2012 15:24:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Apr 2012 15:25:10 BDT
Keith M says:
Many thanks for your comments Philip - I suspect it is indeed a film that requires numerous viewings.
I have looked at some of your other reviews. Wilko and Graham Parker are two of my all-time favourites. I can even recall albums by Jess Roden and Wishbone Ash (though I fear their appeal has faded somewhat for me!).
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