sábado, 14 de abril de 2012

The Rules of the Game

The Rules of the Game [La Règle du jeu] (The Criterion Collection DVD, 2004)
Directed by Jean Renoir
France, 1939
In French with English subtitles

Renoir's introduction to the Criterion version of La Règle du jeu, filmed many years after its infamous screen debut in Paris when many patrons booed the film and one filmgoer even tried to set the theater on fire in protest, provides a timely reminder of the Sex Pistols-like outrage the movie once provoked with its farcical portrayal of an utterly corrupt society at play.  Moviegoers who weren't yet born at the time might wonder what all the fuss was about.  On the eve of war in 1939, an annoyingly ebullient group of French aristocrats gather at a country château to wine and dine, to take part in a hunt, to put on a drunken variety show, and to cheat on their partners.  The only slightly less ebullient help spend their time exchanging anti-Semitic remarks and attempting to cheat on their understandably less chic but no less buffoonishly stereotypical partners.  Eventually shots are fired--already foreshadowed by the hunt scene, of course--thus ending the frivolity and "witty" banter and talk of love for one of the key characters.  The end.  Given Renoir's stated desire to want to break away from naturalism and to create something in between a fantasy and a tragedy instead, I suppose I should be more forgiving of the fact that there's simply too much farce in this particular fantasy/tragedy for my, ahem, predictably middle class tastes.  Then again, that's easier said than done when remembering how often Renoir's so-called masterpiece is hyped by people in the know as one of the greatest movies of all time.  "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"  (The Criterion Collection)

Jean Renoir

23 comentarios:

  1. Yes. Frequently. My thoughts are the same as yours on this one. And this returns us to a conversation that we have had before. When a work of art continues to be assessed by the reception it received at the time of its release as if the contemporary criticism has become a piece of the canon alongside the work. Does its relevance or popularity with first audience really serve as a measure of excellence? Well, apparently yes in many cases, justifiable or not.

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    1. Always glad to hear when you're on my side, Frances! Of course, the point you make about contempo criticism being canonized alongside the work is a very complex and interesting one. On that note, I'm sure you'd agree that another initially once vilified work, Moby-Dick, is still living and breathing in a way that the terribly-outdated Renoir film isn't (i.e. the then-contempo rejection of Melville doesn't really speak to the reason you and I both value it so highly today).

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  2. I saw this many years ago and all I remember is the scene where they shoot a lot of rabbits. And I'm guessing they really did shoot a lot of rabbits, because it didn't look faked.

    I hope Renoir is better in general than your review of this though because I've got an 8-disc boxset if his films which, as is the way of boxsets, doesn't actually include The Rules of the Game.

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    1. Obooki, that hunt scene was fascinating to me both because it didn't look fake at all (well, from the rabbits' perspective anyway) and because its graphic realism vividly offset all the tuxedo comedy scenes that fell flat for me. There are at least three other Renoir films I'd like to see, so I think that box set of yours could very well hold a gem or two despite my current wariness re: the director. Glad I bought a couple of Lang and Murnau box sets instead, though...

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  3. I have never taken to this one, either, for some reason, and I do think that Grand Illusion really is one of the greatest etc. of all time, so I am not sure why. I have read criticism by at least a couple of enthusiasts - Jonathan Rosenbaum was one - and I could certainly agree that what they were seeing was highly interesting. I was not convinced, though, that they were seeing was actually in Renoir's movie.

    Mr. Criterion Contraption does not seem to have gotten to it yet.

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    1. Tom, I'm glad to hear that you think so highly of Grand Illusion. That'll prob. be the next Renoir on the list for me whenever the time comes. By the way, I think Rosenbaum's a fine critic and all, but I probably disagree with him as often as I agree with him oddly enough. Nice to have a reminder about that Criterion blog, too--thanks.

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  4. I just watched La Grande Illusion. I reckon I'll give it a 6. I'm not really a prison-film enthusiast though.

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    1. As I recall, 6 is a pretty good score from the tough-grading Obooki. Do escape films fit the prison-film label for you or are you just a non-enthusiast of prison films in general?

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    2. Yes, 6 is ok; not as good as 7 though! (I gave a film a 9 this month!).

      It's a prison film. It's set in a prison. It's also an escape film. Escape films are prison films, otherwise prison films would exclude most films set in prison.

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    3. "6 is ok; not as good as 7 though!" Classic! Your definition of escape films as prison films intrigues me though I naturally follow your logic. I just always think of movies like The Great Escape as escape films while essentially forgetting about the prison/confinement setting that makes the escape part possible in the first place. Chained Heat? Now that's a prison movie. "White hot desire melts cold prison steel." Ah, the hidden poetry of the prison exploitation movie marketing efforts of the '70s and '80s!

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  5. I have learned an enormous amount about film from Rosenbaum, and I rarely agree with him. "Agree" is another of those overrated concepts. Hey, I could kill off a week writing about that!

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    1. That's actually an excellent point you make about learning from people we "disagree" with and probably explains some of my own experiences with Rosenbaum and others. I would love, for whatever it's worth, to see you tackle that concept in a series of posts at some point.

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  6. Not sure why La Grande Illusion is a prison movie? POW and WWI, yes, one of the best WWI at that.

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    1. I figured Obooki might have been being a little cheeky, Caroline, but he has since answered for himself above. However, why wouldn't a movie set in a prison camp qualify as a prison movie in addition to a P.O.W. movie? Couldn't they be both?

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    2. I was being pedantic as I consider it to be a war movie belonging to the sub-category POW movie and not a "pure" prison movie like some others....

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  7. Is it too late to note that my esteem for this movie has nothing to do with what kind of movie it is, but rather with the artistry with which it is made? Acting, camera movement, editing, nonsense like that?

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    1. Tom, your preferences for prison films and/or P.O.W. films have been duly noted! What's with this talk about "artistry" anyway? We're all about the genre here--you should know that by now!

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  8. Hello Richard: testing to see if I can get a comment through.

    I have this film on the shelf and for some reason haven't got to it yet. I'm delighted, btw, to find another Fassbinder fan.

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  9. Respuestas
    1. Guy, glad you got through--thanks for your persistence (another comment of yours found its way into my Spam folder today, so I'm not sure what's going on with Blogger these days). I'm actually pretty much a Fassbinder neophyte, but Berlin Alexanderplatz is doing a lot to convert me. Great stuff so far!

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  10. Thanks for holding the foreign film festival--it's prompted me to review some films that I wanted included. have you read Berlin Alexanderplatz? I have a copy but haven't read it yet. Perhaps for the next German lit month?

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    1. You're welcome, Guy--very glad to hear that! I've been bad about visiting people's blogs in a timely fashion this year, but hopefully the movie talk among all the participants will gather steam over the course of the year (I, too, enjoy selecting special titles for events like this). Haven't read Berlin Alexanderplatz yet, but German Lit Month would be a perfect month for it for sure.

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  11. Dug out my copy of Rules of the Game. I liked it but wasn't crazy about it. All those dead bunnies get to you after a while. I too watched the intro by Renoir and his reference to Moliere & Marivaux. You can certainly see the influence.

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