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 Rules of the Game" is one of those movies that would be easy to be disappointed by, because it's constantly lauded as one of the greatest movies ever made, and anyone who's spent any time studying film knows that at some point you have to see this movie if you're going to consider yourself a film connoisseur. Well, it is excellent, though it's not excellent in a lot of obvious ways, and I could forgive someone for watching it and having a lukewarm reaction on a first viewing.
The film is sort of reminiscent of Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night" (though of course Renoir's movie came first) in its use of a country estate filled with a bunch of well-to-do's and the servants waiting on them. It also put me in the mind of Evelyn Waugh's novels, as Renoir uses a thin glaze of humour to mask some bitter truths about class and social standing. There are some downright slapstick moments that feel like something out of a silent comedy, but there are also some sober moments that give the film a very serious grounding.
What impressed me most was the fluidity of Renoir's direction. The camera is a constant observer, gliding through the vast house, following one character only to switch direction and follow another as he or she walks past. The viewer feels like a voyeur, and Renoir gives the impression that these characters would be behaving somewhat differently if they knew you were watching. I can't explain exactly how he does that, but the feeling comes across distinctly.
Probably needs to be watched a few times for a full appreciation. In fact, I need to watch it again myself.
106 of 122 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?