RÈgle Du Jeu - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





(Rules of the Game)


France, 1939


Director: Jean Renoir

Production: La Nouvelle Edition Française; black and white, 35mm; running time: 85 minutes, restored version is 110 minutes; length: restored version is 10,080 feet. Released 7 July 1939, Paris. Rereleased 1949 in Great Britain, and 1950 in New York. Restored to original form and released at 1959 Venice Film Festival. Filmed February through the Spring of 1939, in the Chateau de le Ferté-Saint-Aubin and at La Motte-Beuvron, Aubigny; interiors shot at the Billancourt Studios, Joinville. Cost: 5,000,000 F.


Producer: Claude Renoir; screenplay: Jean Renoir with Camille François and Carl Koch; assistant directors: André Zwobada and Henri Cartier-Bresson; photography: Jean Bachelet; editor: Marguerite Houlet-Renoir; sound engineer: Joseph de Bretagne; production designer: Eugène Lourié; assistant designer: Max Douy; music director: Roger Desormières; costume designer: Coco Chanel.


Cast: Marcel Dalio ( Robert de la Chesnaye ); Nora Grégor ( Christine de la Chesnaye ); Roland Toutain ( André Jurieu ); Jean Renoir ( Octave ); Mila Parély ( Geneviève de Marrast ); Paulette Dubost ( Lisette ); Gaston Modot ( Schumacher ); Julien Carette ( Marceau ); Anne Mayen ( Jackie ); Pierre Nay ( Saint-Auben ); Pierre Magnier ( The General ); Odette Talazac ( Charlotte ); Roger Forster ( The homosexual ); Richard Francouer ( La Bruyère ); Claire Gérard ( Madame de la Bruyère ); Tony Corteggiani ( Berthelin ); Nicolas Amato ( The South American ); Eddy Debray ( Corneille ); Lisa Elina ( Radio announcer ); André Zwobada ( Engineer ); Léon Larive ( Chef ); Célestin ( Kitchen servant ); Jenny Helia ( Serving girl ); Henri Cartier-Bresson ( English servant ); Lise Elina ( Female radio announcer ); André Zwobada ( Engineer at the Caudron ); Camille François ( Radio announcer ); friends of Jean Renoir as guests in the shooting party; local villagers as the beaters.


Publications


Script:

Renoir, Jean, Camille François, and Carl Koch, La Règle du jeu , in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), October 1965; as The Rules of the Game , New York, 1969.


Books:

Sadoul, Georges, French Film , London, 1953.

Cauliez, Armand-Jean, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1962.

Chadere, Bernard, Jean Renoir , Lyons, 1962.

Analyses des films de Jean Renoir , Paris, 1966.

Simon, John, Private Screenings , New York, 1967.

Sarris, Andrew, The American Cinema , New York, 1968.

Cowie, Peter, 70 Years of Cinema , New York, 1969.

Poulle, François, Renoir 1938 , Paris, 1969.

Leprohon, Pierre, Jean Renoir , New York, 1971.

Braudy, Leo, Jean Renoir: The World of his Films , New York 1972.

Bazin, André, Jean Renoir , edited by François Truffaut, Paris, 1973, 1992.

Burch, Noël, Theory of Film Practice , New York, 1973.

Mast, Gerald, Filmguide to The Rules of the Game , Bloomington, Indiana, 1973.

Solomon, Stanley, The Classic Cinema , New York, 1973.

Durgnat, Raymond, Jean Renoir , Berkeley, 1974.

Renoir, Jean, My Life and My Films , New York, 1974, 1991.

Gilliatt, Penelope, Jean Renoir: Essays, Conversations, Reviews , New York, 1975.

Faulkner, Christopher, Jean Renoir: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1979.

Sesonske, Alexander, Jean Renoir: The French Films, 1924–1939 , Cambridge Massachusetts, 1980.

Gauteur, Claude, Jean Renoir: Oeuvres de cinéma inédites , Paris, 1981.

Ropars-Wuilleumier, Marie-Claire, Le Texte divisé: Essai sur l'écriture filmique , Paris, 1981.

McBride, Joseph, editor, Filmmakers on Filmmaking: The American Film Institute Seminars on Motion Pictures and Television, volume 2 , Los Angeles, 1983.

Renoir, Jean, Lettres d'Amérique , edited by Dido Renoir and Alexander Sesonske, Paris, 1984.

Serceau, Daniel, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1985.

Weis, Elisabeth, and John Belton, editors, Film Sound: Theory and Practice , New York, 1985.

Bertin, Celia, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1986.

Faulkner, Christopher, The Social Cinema of Jean Renoir , Princeton, 1986.

Vincendeau, Ginette, and Keith Reader, La Vie est à nous: French Cinema of the Popular Front 1935–1938 , London, 1986.

Viry-Babel, Roger, Jean Renoir: Le Jeu et la règle , Paris, 1986.

Guislain, Pierre, La règle du jeu, Jean Renoir , Paris, 1990.

Bergan, Ronald, Jean Renoir: Projections of Paradise , Woodstock, 1994.

Cavagnac, Guy, Jean Renoir: le désir du monde , Paris, 1994.

O'Shaughnessy, Martin, Jean Renoir , New York, 2000.


Articles:

Lo Duca, Giuseppe, "Il cinema e lo Stato: inter-vista con Françoise Rosay e Jean Renoir," in Cinema (Rome), 25 March 1939.

Plant, Richard, "Jean Renoir," in Theatre Arts (New York), June 1939.

Variety (New York), 30 August 1939.

Lambert, Gavin, "French Cinema: The New Pessismism," in Sequence (London), Summer 1948.

Menard, Louis, in Temps Modernes (Paris), no. 43, 1949.

Lambert, Gavin, "A Last Look Round," in Sequence (London), no.14, 1952.

"Renoir Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1952.

Renoir, Jean, "Personal Note," in Sight and Sound (London), April-June 1952.

Sadoul, Georges, "The Renaissance of the French Cinema—Feyder, Renoir, Duvivier, Carné," in Film: An Anthology , edited by Daniel Talbot, New York, 1959.

Brunelin, André G., "Histoire d'une malédiction," in Cinéma (Paris), February 1960.

Dyer, Peter John, "Renoir and Realism," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1960.

Règle du jeu
Règle du jeu

Corbin, Louise, in Films in Review (New York), 26 January 1951.

New York Times , 19 January 1961.

Mekas, Jonas, in Village Voice (New York), 26 January 1961.

Whitehall, Richard, in Films and Filming (London), November 1961 and November 1962.

Marcorelles, Louis, "Conversation with Jean Renoir," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1962.

Russell, Lee, and Peter Wollen, "Jean Renoir," in New Left Review (London), May-June 1964.

Esnault, Philippe, "Le Jeu de la verité," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), October 1965.

"Renoir, cinéaste de notre temps, à coeur ouvert," in Cinéma (Paris), May 1967 and June 1967.

Joly, J., "Between Theatre and Life: Jean Renoir and The Rules of the Game ," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1967–68.

Grelier, Robert, "Dialogue avec une salle, in Cinéma (Paris), March 1968.

Budgen, Suzanne, "Some Notes on the Sources of La règle du jeu ," in Take One (Montreal), July-August 1968.

Gilliatt, Penelope, in New Yorker , 23 August 1969 and 20 September 1969.

Fofi, Goffredo, "The Cinema of the Popular Front in France, (1934–38)," in Screen (London), Winter 1972–73.

Mary, A., "L'Analyse du film," in Image et Son (Paris), December 1972.

Roud, Richard, in Favorite Movies: Critics' Choice , edited by Philip Nobile, New York, 1973.

Litle, Michael, "Sound Track: Rules of the Game ," in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Fall 1973.

Wood Jr, George A., "Game Theory and The Rules of the Game, " in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Fall 1973.

Gauteur, Claude, " La règle du jeu et la critique en 1939," in Image et Son (Paris), March 1974.

Sarris, Andrew, "Renoir: Impressions at Twilight," in Village Voice (New York), 6 and 12 September 1974.

Sitney, P. Adams, "Bergman et Renoir: A propos des Sourires d'une noit d'été ," in Cinema (New York), 1975.

Jehle, W., in Cinema (Zurich), no. 4, 1975.

Lewis, Marshall, "A Masterpiece on 8th Street," in The Essential Cinema , edited by P. Adams Sitney, New York, 1975.

Boost, C., " La règle du jeu: Renoir's spelregel: de leugen," in Skoop (Wageningen), March 1976.

Haakman, A., "Hoe moet een acteur geregisseerd worden?. . . ," in Skoop (Wageningen), March 1976.

Lesage, Julia, " S/Z and Rules of the Game ," in Jump Cut (Chicago) 30 December 1976.

Perebinossoff, P. R., "Theatricals in Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion ," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Winter 1977.

Roy, J., in Cinéma (Paris), June 1978.

Strebel, Elizabeth Grottle, "Jean Renoir and the Popular Front," in Feature Films as History , edited by K. R. M. Short, London, 1981.

Renoir, Jean, "Presentacion de La regla del juego ," in Contracampo (Madrid), March 1982.

Marias, M., in Casablanca (Madrid), April 1982.

" Règle du jeu Issue" of Quarterly Review of Film Studies (New York), Summer 1982.

Snyder, J., "Film and Classical Genre . . . : Rules for Interpreting Rules of the Game ," in Literature/Film Quarterley (Salisbury, Maryland), July 1982.

Gauteur, Claude in Positif (Paris), July-August 1982.

Rafferty, T., "The Essence of the Landscape," in New Yorker , 25 June 1990.

Tifft, S., "Drole de Guerre: Renoir, Farce, and the Fall of France," in Representations (Berkeley), Spring 1992.

Bramkamp, R., and H.-J. Kapp, "Dialog ueber La règle du jeu von Jean Renoir," in Filmwaerts (Hannover), June 1993.

Brisseau, Jean-Claude, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 482, July-August 1994.

Legrand, Gérard, and Alain Masson, and B. Asscher, "Homage à Jean Renoir," in Positif (Paris), no. 401–402, July-August 1994.

Smith, Gavin, "A Man of Excess: Paul Schrader on Jean Renoir," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 5, no. 1, January 1995.

Buchsbaum, Jonathan, "'My Nationality is Cinematography': Renoir and the National Question," in Persistence of Vision (Maspeth), no. 12–13, 1996.

Bergstrom, J., "Jean Renoir's Return to France," in Poetics Today , vol. 17, no. 3, 1996.

Reader, K., in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 6, September 1996.

Bates, Robin, "Audiences on the Verge of a Fascist Breakdown: Male Anxieties and Late 1930s French Film," in Cinema Journal (Austin), vol. 36, no. 3, Spring 1997.

Mayer, H., "Figaro 1939," in Trafic (Paris), no. 24, Winter 1997.


* * *


Detested when it first appeared (for satirizing the French ruling class on the brink of World War II), almost destroyed by brutal cutting, restored in 1959 to virtually its original form, La règle du jeu is now universally acknowledged as a masterpiece and perhaps Renoir's supreme achievement. In the four international critics polls organized every ten years (since 1952) by Sight and Sound , only two films have been constant: one is Battleship Potemkin , and the other is La règle du jeu . And in the 1982 poll La règle du jeu had climbed to second place. Its extreme complexity (it seems, after more than 20 viewings, one of the cinema's few truly inexhaustible films) makes it peculiarly difficult to write about briefly; the following attempt will indicate major lines of interest:

Sources . The richness of the film is partly attributable to the multiplicity of its sources and influences (all, be it said, totally assimilated: there is no question here of an undigested eclecticism). It seems very consciously (though never pretentiously) the product of the vast and complex cultural tradition, with close affinities with the other arts, especially painting, theatre and music. If it evokes impressionist painting less directly than certain other Renoir films (for example Partie de campagne or French Can-Can ), it is strikingly faithful to the spirit of impressionism, the desire to portray life-asflux rather than as a collection of discrete objects or figures. The influence of theatre is much more obvious, since it directly affects the acting style, which relates to a tradition of French boulevard comedy. Renoir specifically refers to Musset's Les Caprices de Marianne as a source (indeed, it was to be the title of the film at an early stage of its evolution) and to Beaumarchais (the film is prefaced by a quotation from The Marriage of Figaro ). This last points us directly to music, and especially to Mozart, whose music opens and closes the film, the "overture" (in fact the first of the "3 German Dances" K.605) accompanying the Beaumarchais quotation. This is perhaps the most Mozartian of all films: it constantly evokes Bruno Walter's remark (in a celebrated rehearsal record of a Mozart symphony), "The expression changes in every bar."

Method . Every frame of La règle du jeu seems dominated by Renoir's personality; yet the most appealing facets of that personality are generosity, openness, responsiveness. As a result, La règle is at once the auteur film par excellence and a work of co-operation and active participation. In Renoir's words, "of all the films I have made, this one is probably the most improvised. We worked out the script and decided on the places we were going to shoot as we went along. . . ." It is clear that much of the film's complexity derives from its improvisatory, co-operative nature. Renoir cast himself as Octave (a role originally intended for his older brother Pierre), and developed Octave's relationship with Christine, because of his own pleasure in the company of Nora Grégor; the role of Geneviève was greatly extended (originally, she was to have left the château after the hunt) because of Renoir's appreciation of the talent of Mila Parély; the entire sub-plot involving the servants was similarly elaborated during shooting, partly because of Renoir's delight in Carette's characterization.

Stylistics . The film marks the furthest elaboration of certain stylistic traits developed by Renoir since his silent films: the use of off-screen space (see Nöel Burch's seminal account of Nana in Theory of Film Practice ); the mobile camera, always at the service of the action and the actors yet unusually free in its movements, continuously tracking, panning, re-framing; the fondness for the group shot, in which several characters (sometimes several diverse but simultaneous actions) are linked; depth of field, enabling the staging of simultaneous foreground and background actions, which often operate like counterpoint in music; the re-thinking of "composition" in terms of time and movement (of the camera, of the actors) rather than static images; the constant transgressing of the boundaries of the frame, which actors enter and exit from during shots. There are various consequences of this practice: 1) Renoir's "realism" (a word we should use very carefully in reference to so stylized a film)—the sense of life continuing beyond the borders of the frame, as if the camera were selecting, more or less arbitrarily, a mere portion of a continuous "real" world. 2) A drastic modification of the habits of identification generally encouraged by mainstream cinema. Closeups and point-of-view shots are rare (though Renoir does not hesitate to use them when he feels them to be dramatically appropriate— interestingly, such usages are almost always linked to Christine). The continual reframings and entrances/exits ensure that the spectator's gaze is constantly being transferred from character to character, action to action. If Christine is gradually defined as the film's central figure, this is never at the expense of other characters, and she never becomes our sole object of identification. 3) The style of the film also assumes a metaphysical dimension, the apprehension of life-as-flux. The quotation from Lavoisier that Renoir applied to his father is apt for him too: "In nature nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed. . . ."

Thematics. La règle du jeu defies reduction to any single statement of "meaning." As with any great work of art, its thematic dimension is inextricably involved with its stylistics. Renoir's own statements about the film indicate the complexity of attitude it embodies: on the one hand, "the story attacks the very structure of our society"; on the other, "I wish I could live in such a society—that would be wonderful." People repeatedly quote Octave's line. "Everyone has his reasons," as if it summed up the film (and Renoir), reducing its attitude to a simple, all-embracing generosity; they ignore the words that introduce it: ". . . there's one thing that is terrible , and that is that everyone has his reasons." As to the "rules" of the title, the attitude is again highly complex. On the one hand, the film clearly recognizes the need for order, for some form of "regulation"; on the other, the culminating catastrophe is precipitated by the application of opposed sets of rules by two characters (who happen to be husband and wife): Schumacher, who believes in punishing promiscuity with death, and Lisette, who believes in sexual game-playing but has rigid notions of propriety in questions of age and income. Not surprisingly, the film plays on unresolved (perhaps, within our culture, unresolvable) tensions and paradoxes: the Marquis "doesn't want fences" (restrictions), but also "doesn't want rabbits" (total freedom). Few films have treated the issue of sexual morality (fidelity, monogamy, freedom) with such openness: a film about people who go too far, or a film about people who don't go far enough?

—Robin Wood



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