Consistently cited by critics worldwide as one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's bittersweet drama of life, love, class, and the social code of manners and behavior ("the rules of the game") is a savage critique undertaken with sensitivity and compassion. Renoir's catch-phrase through the film, "Everyone has their reasons," develops a multilayered meaning by the conclusion. A young aviator (Roland Toutain) commits a serious social faux pas by alluding to an affair on national radio. To avert a scandal, the cultured Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio), husband to the aviator's mistress, Christine (Nora Gregor), and a philanderer in his own right, invites all to a weekend hunting party in his country mansion. The complicated maze of marriages and mistresses (social register and servant class alike) is plotted like a bedroom farce, but the tone soon takes a darker cast. Renoir, who also takes the pivotal role as Andre's jovial pal and de la Chesnaye confidant Octave, deftly blends high comedy with cutting satire as he parallels the upstairs-downstairs affairs. The film builds to a comic pitch with the hilarious performance of Julien Carette as a rabbit poacher turned groundskeeper, but soon turns tragic in a devastating conclusion. The film was roundly condemned and banned in France upon its 1939 release, but years later (out of the shadow of WWII) the film was rediscovered for the masterpiece that it is. --Sean Axmaker
Considered one of the greatest films ever made, The Rules of the Game (La rÃ¨gle du jeu), by Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion), is a scathing critique of corrupt French society cloaked in a comedy of manners, in which a weekend at a marquis’s countryside chateau lays bare some ugly truths about a group of haute bourgeois acquaintances. The film was a victim of tumultuous history—it was subjected to cuts after premiere audiences rejected it in 1939, and the original negative was destroyed during World War II; it wasn’t reconstructed until 1959. That version, which has stunned viewers for decades, is presented here.