In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel's officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre.
Sergei M. Eisenstein
On the brink of WWII, the record-breaking aviator, André Jurieux, safely lands at a small airport crammed with reporters, only to come face to face with his worst fear: the object of his desire, Christine--a blonde noblewoman and wife of the affluent Marquis de la Cheyniest, Robert--is not there to greet him. Intent on winning her back, André accepts his friend Octave's invitation for a lavish hunting weekend at the aristocrat's palatial country estate at La Coliniere, among hand-picked guests and the mansion's servants; however, intrigue, rivalries, and human weaknesses threaten to expose both royalty and paupers alike. Who will breach the unwritten rules of the game?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 23 min.) Two different couples arrive at the chateau at the same time, in two different cars, yet the two license plates are sequential. The white car is 1812RM3, and the black one is 1813RM3. See more »
Film historians Jean Gaborit and Jacques Durand salvaged excised and unused footage and created a new longer version, presented at the 1959 Venice Film Festival. Where the original theatrical version was 91 minutes long, the new 1959 version was 106 minutes long, over fifteen minutes longer than the original cut. See more »
A weekend party assembles at the château of the Marquis de la Chesnaye. Among the guests André, an aviator, is in love with the Marquis's wife, Christine; the Marquis himself is conducting an affair with Geneviève; Octave, an old family friend, is also secretly in love with the Marquise. Meanwhile a poacher, appointed servant by the mischievous Marquis, comes to blows with the gamekeeper over the latter's flirtatious wife.
The set-up may remind one of The Shooting Party or Gosford Park, but the debt is naturally in the present film's favour. Rather, the upstairs-downstairs intrigue, the mingling of comedy with drama, and the setting prior to cataclysmic social/political change owe much to Beaumarchais's Le mariage de Figaro. Which explains the hostility of audiences and government alike on the film's release; it was cut, then banned outright, and not reconstituted until well into the 1950s.
To tap the source of the disquiet aroused by this superficially fluffy piece of bedroom farce ('Surely just the French doing what they do best?'), one must look beyond the typical observation that it was 'socially insidious because it was a clear attack on the haute-bourgeoisie, the very class who would shortly lead the troops against the Germans'. The auto-critique goes deeper than that.
Consider. The lower orders are no better than their irresponsible masters: the women are no less immoral, the men just as concerned to preserve their foreheads from cuckoldry. This is the culmination of Figaro's contract with the Count: he enjoins the latter to behave like an honest man, as befits his station; two centuries later, not only has the nobility welshed on the deal, it has brought the servant classes down with it. Renoir serves up for the French a portrait of a society which is rotten from top to bottom. 'The Rules of the Game' are: keep up appearances, and somehow the whole charade will be preserved indefinitely (barring Adolf and his Panzers, that is).
André, the aviator, the crosser of the Atlantic (distance, perspective), is the one who threatens the edifice. Being Christine's lover is not enough; she must elope with him, it must be 'honest'. If she does this she will be showing that feelings matter more than money and position. The choice is too much for her and she runs for cover with Octave, and thus sets in motion the mechanism by which everything ends in tragedy but the status quo is maintained, for now.
The working out of this theme in Renoir's hands leads to some striking juxtapositions of tone. Renoir the 'humanist', like Octave whom he plays, was a lover, and forgiver, of humanity. It was not in him to condemn without affection. In one scene the gamekeeper chases his rival through the drawing room discharging a pistol, while the guests barely look up from their cards: he is merely playing by the rules, after all. It was perhaps the coexistence of farcical sequences like this with the wanton slaughter of wildlife in the hunt scene that audiences found hard to take. Renoir himself wrote: 'During the shooting of the film I was torn between my desire to make a comedy of it and the wish to tell a tragic story. The result of this ambivalence was the film as it is.' Amen.
53 of 71 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this