The Rules of the Game (2004)

Jean Renoir: Titannic, The Fresh Prince of Bellair, More Titannic

Now it doesn’t make me cry. And it doesn’t make my stomach turn. It isn’t in color. And it barely has music. It doesn’t even make me want to watch it again right away. There is, however, something I must tell you about The Rules of the Game, and that is that it’s perfect.

The Rules of the Game,possesses a level of frenetic energy and cine-stage choreography, which is in a league by itself except perhaps Clouzot on a good day. The play scene with the skeleton costume dancers—how Renoir is able to cold start the momentum with the “play within play” and then seamlessly transition from that eerie performance (black magic/religious trance/alcohol, prob. rum) into a scene of multiple undressings (the way she yanks off his belt in a whip-like motion as though it were a giant snake, as well as the Citizen Kane-like perspective of the shot of the table from across the room) and scurryings off by the revelers into the various mouse holes (a repeat of the earlier scene where everyone darts and dashes off to their rooms at evening’s close the night before). Only this time it’s no dress rehearsal—someone is going to die—we can sense it.

Octave running around frantically trying to get anyone to help him out of his bear costume—and how everyone is unwilling or too preoccupied to lift a finger verges on Buñuelian tactics à la Exterminating Angel. Proving once and for all that every great satire of the idle rich must have a brown bear somewhere loose in the house.

The film even has goddamn physical comedy, from Renoir himself (as Octave), climbing on the bed, throwing pillows around, and struggling to get off his bear suit. (Did I mention the bear suit?) Sometimes I wonder exactly how much all this physical comedy adds to the big concepts, but I don’t see how it detracts either.

Kris: “Do you know yourself?”
Hari: “As much as anybody does.”

At the film’s conclusion, Renoir poses the question of whether and how justice should be applied in the punishment of a crime. Should legal justice be pursued, or is there another, perhaps higher form of morality? And it would seem as though Renoir is pretty clearly saying yes, to the latter. All’s well that ends well. And twenty-five years later, Buñuel would say no, with his Diary of a Chambermaid, all is not well that ends well. All is not well.

From: Me
To: Tim
Subject:1st time caller, long time listener.
Date: January 1947

Haven’t had email from you since the one last week, which I already responded to. In other words, if you’ve sent anything that hasn’t been responded to in the last 3-4 days. Then we definitely have a technical problem. Meanwhile, I report I’m almost finished with Rules of the Game.

My god it’s great. It’s so great. “Oh, god that’s good.” (John Cleese, heard from behind a closed door). I probably even like it better than Grand Illusion, if that’s okay with you.

How can you possibly still think Gosford Park was anything more than a passable 3.5? In fact, I’m not sure there’s any material in Gpark that wasn’t already covered by ROTG.

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