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"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.
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