During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Aviator André Jurieux has just completed a record-setting flight, but when he is greeted by an admiring crowd, all he can say to them is how miserable he is that the woman he loves did not come to meet him. He is in love with Christine, the wife of aristocrat Robert de la Cheyniest. Robert himself is involved in an affair with Geneviève de Marras, but he is trying to break it off. Meanwhile, André seeks help from his old friend Octave, who gets André an invitation to the country home where Robert and Christine are hosting a large hunting party. As the guests arrive for the party, their cordial greetings hide their real feelings, along with their secrets - and even some of the servants are involved in tangled relationships. Written by
The fact the movie was a complete failure when it came out in 1939 is partly a myth: it was a relative failure. Renoir himself thought it was a complete flop, but he was impressed by a few hostile reactions (which included fights and allegedly a man trying to set fire to a theatre). Attendance was low, but it was summer, there were political tensions with Germany and probably the public was put off by the turmoil around the movie. Critics were balanced: a study showed about a third were positive, a third negative and a third reserved. The movie was banned when WWII started and then again during German occupation, but so were other movies, e.g. the famous "Le Quai des brumes" (1938) and "Le Jour se lève" (1939), both by Carné. See more »
(around 24 min) When Schumacher and the under-gamekeepers find the cat in the rabbit trap, they complain about it. They release it and the cat runs away to their right. Schumacher immediately turns about 75 degrees to his left and shoots into the far distance (his gun is level). From the characters' dialogue, he obviously "killed it" (!). See more »
Jean Renoir said that this was not intended to be a social commentary, and whether he truly intended it to be (he referred to it as, "An exact description of the bourgeoisie of our time.") or not, it is hard to dismiss that it hit close to home. So offended were the masses that the picture was banned. It is said that behind every joke there is truth, and whether this was intended to be a joke or not, Renoir still found truth. One could argue the director's intentions all day, but one matter that cannot be disputed is that this film is extraordinary! As a handful of French men and women converge on a château for a hunting expedition, their love affairs clash with their obligations to society's game. For instance, one cannot leave one's lover to be with another until he has confessed his adultery to her. Attempts to leave with another man's wife are particularly difficult, as well, unless the other man has a mistress of his own. These are but a few rules of the game. The old are for the old, the young are for the young. Members of one social order are forbidden to see members from another, and so on. Combine these rules with a tangled web of countless love affairs between a handful of people, and you can see the madness that erupts during the course of this movie. The parts are all played well, but it is the writing and directing of Renoir that makes the film the masterpiece that it is. Keeping all of these sordid affairs in order is an achievement in its own right, but Renoir moves his pieces all over the board like a skilled chess player, achieving his goal while never forgetting the rules of the game!
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