The Rules of the Game
A film Jean Renoir
France/1939/ 110 min
23rd June ; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Threater
Their spineless yet sympathetic host, the wealthy, Jewish Marquis de la Chesnaye (brilliantly played by Marcel Dalio), when he's not attempting to rid himself of a cumbersome mistress, entertains himself with mechanical toys—player pianos, artificial warbling birds—that mirror his own vacuity. Meanwhile his beautiful, foreign-born wife must contend with the adoration of a dashing aviator (Roland Toutain)—a romantic hero thrust into a society devoid of illusions.
Shades of an 18th-century French farce—yet who can forget, in the thrilling scene of the hunt when white-robed servants beat the trees to flush out the game, that within a few years similar forests would be hunted for partisans and Jews? Renoir's artistic sensitivity seems to have endowed him with a kind of second sight.
The Rules of the Game provoked something like a riot at its Parisian premiere. The film was cut twice, and its original negative was destroyed by Allied bombing. Now it has been completely restored from a master print.
Son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste, Jean Renoir had a happy childhood. Pierre Renoir was his brother, and Claude Renoir was his nephew. After the end of World War I, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he moved from scriptwriting to filmmaking. He married Catherine Hessling, for whom he began to make movies; he wanted to make a star of her. His next partner was Marguerite Renoir, whom he never married, although she took his name. He left France in 1941 during the German invasion of France during World War II and became a naturalized US citizen.
As a director and actor, he made more than forty films from the silent era to the end of the 1960s. As an author, he wrote the definitive biography of his father, Renoir, My Father (1962). Renoir exerted immense influence on subsequent auteur directors, including among others Orson Welles, Satyajit Ray, and François Truffaut. Best remembered for such cinematic landmarks as Grand Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939), Renoir is considered one of the major figures of French and international film history.
Renoir's films were underestimated when they first came out. They were unconventional, complex, and so energetic and technically daring that few noticed their intricate structure. They were often dismissed as rough, not fully achieved artistically. The generation that came to the cinema in the '60s and '70s (perhaps the richest and most diverse era in European cinema) recognised Renoir as an ancestor who had already made the kind of films they admired or were setting out to make themselves, and justly hailed them as masterpieces.