on 9 March 2007
I first viewed this film a few years ago now, then i was amazed and confused by it. i have seen it at least 10 times since and love every viewing. the plot is genius, renoir tackling the subject of different classes. though not dividing them but showing we are all the same, striving for something better and in this case love and lust. it is poigniant, hilarious, sad, dark, i could go on... personally i rate this as the second best film of all time (nothing betters citizan kane but it is the only film that is remotely close).
La Règle du jeu has had a chequered history: poorly received by critics and public alike on its initial release in 1939, and subsequently banned by the French government for being unpatriotic and demoralising, it was subsequently re-established as a masterpiece by the New Wave. Within the film itself, the tone is equally erratic, or all-embracing, depending on one's view. Ostensibly about a house party for the rich in pre-World War 1 France, it veers between social observation, farce, and tragedy, and it is never quite clear how we are meant to regard the characters. Renoir famously said that everyone has their reasons, and this broad humanity is probably the guiding light of the film; nevertheless it is the portrait of a society in decay, class-ridden, which Renoir hated, and the romantic entanglements of the super-wealthy are both self-indulgent and quite affecting, viewed through this wide prism. On the technical side, Renoir's camera takes in scenes with many characters with aplomb, and the plotting is also remarkably tight, with about eight main characters who are each shown to have their private reasons. Nora Gregor as the Austrian Marquise de la Chesnaye, the hostess, is both beguiling and somehow lacking all sense of proportion, acting a bit like an 18-year-old; the actress brings it off well, as does Marcel Dalio as her slightly foppish but forbearing husband. Renoir himself has a key role, and Roland Toutain is dashing as the straight-as-a-die aviator. Below stairs the goings-on are equally dramatic, if not more so, with guns going off in a prolonged sequence of party mayhem. It reaches a pitch of hysteria which shows the handling of a master filmmaker, although the theatrical performance scenes have more charm and even cinematic magic in La Grande Illusion of two years before. Having said that, the Renoir character, Octave, prancing around in his bear suit, and then trying to find someone to help him out of it, helps keep things comic and slightly unhinged. An earlier scene of a hunt is also very long, but the attention shown to the rabbits and pheasants is one of the things that makes us question the whole escapade, as presumably we are meant to. The final act is full of surprises, and frankly dizzying, and it leaves you in a strange place, as it must. There cannot even be the guarded hope for a brighter day, privately at least, that one might read into La Grande Illusion, as there is the sense that irrevocable social change lies just around the corner.
on 9 February 2016
I purchased this DVD using a top 50 films list from the BFI (British film institute).
Previously I had never heard of it.
I didn't fall in love with it, but I didn't hate it either.
It seems to be one of those films that critics and film students have come to admire.
I read about the film portraying a vision of French society just prior to World War 2.
Personally, and it is only my opinion I will not be watching it again.
My guess is the film has become part of the required watching for those undertaking courses in cinematography and social history.
on 10 October 2013
I couldn't decide whether to buy this region-2 BFI DVD or to wait for a B region blu-ray (as the only BD editions available are the french one with no subtitles, and Criterion region 1-locked). But I regret now I bought this DVD.
This is without doubt a masterpiece of cinematography, acting and narration, regardless of its age. In its uncensored version presented here, it leaves you speechless and wanting more.
But this release cannot offer you any more actually - very poor contrast, terribly unstable picture and incorrect ratio (looks like 1.78:1 instead of the correct 1.33:1 - and yes, I double-checked the TV settings).
I hope that Criterion edition looks much better than this. Anyway, it's high time to re-release this classic now in remastered HD, as well as other BFI milestones by Cocteau, Ghatak, Dreyer and others!
on 5 July 2003
This is the one film that everyone should see, and that everyone should see several times. It is the best film ever made by a very long way, in a different class to the American and British pretenders.
Ostensibly, it is a triangle of love triangles, but it goes so much further. It is dark, funny, moving, deep, complex and incisive. It is a film that is not only essential on DVD, but the only one that makes it essential to own a DVD player - just so you can watch this film over and over.
Yes, it is in French, but don't let that put you off. It could be the only subtitled film you ever see (although you would be missing out on many other fine films, of course). If this were the only film (foreign or otherwise) I were ever allowed to watch for the rest of my life, I would be happy.
on 2 June 2003
I am delighted that at last this film is available on DVD. This is the finest film that has ever been made, streets ahead of any pretenders. If you only own one DVD, and I'm serious about this, it should be this one. In fact, I've read reviewers who recommend watching this film again every month as both therapy and education. I have seen it many times, and it just gets better and better. Yes, it is in French, but why should that stop you? It is also absolutely brilliant from start to finish in every department.
I don't want to try encapsulating the plot, because discovering it for the first time as it unwinds is something you will cherish. Then you will want to revisit it.
All I can say is that I hope the rest of Renoir's films are going to be coming out on DVD - they're not up there with this one, but they are all worth seeing. I think a lot of people will want to see more of them once they have watched this one.
What more do I need to say? It's better than the Godfather films, it's better than Star Wars, it's better than Casablanca or Pulp Fiction. If you have a DVD collection without it, then your collection is only second best.
on 9 January 2002
Renoir's brilliant study of class warfare takes place during a shooting weekend. Protagonists from across the social (and gender) divide fight bitter and deadly battles as they seek to justify their positions and reinforce the jealousies that divide them.
Its wit, subtlety, incredible acting and sharp dialogue make it a classic.