Regle du jue, La (The Rules of the Game) (Renoir, 1939)

Renoir’s influential masterpiece does not share the sacred place in my heart as it does in so many others. Maybe it’s the purposeful repetitive banter of the socialites, the draining nature of the final sequence (which on the big screen in even more visually impressive), or the whimsical flow of the free-flowing plot. Whatever the cause for my reluctance, Renoir gets his point across in spades, the timeless deep focus photography the granddaddy of all film realism (the “thank you” to theorist Andre Bazin reminds us all) forcing us to see an artist’s vision without the luxury of montage. Renoir’s fly on the wall approach both enlightens the flaws in the class system and shows the buffoonery hiding under the snazzy surface. The best scene in the film remains the rabbit hunt, with all the lower class “beaters” snapping their sticks on the trees forcing the animals toward the waiting hunters in the distance. If any scene sums up Renoir’s brilliant parallels between theme and mise-en-scene, it’s this one. When Renoir’s upper class protagonists unload countless buckshot into the unsuspecting game, we see these people for who they can be – brutal, unflinching, and completely without purpose. Rules of the Game is one of the greats, it just doesn’t belong on my own personal all time list. Apples and oranges.

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