FC3: A new definition of the word “accident”


I wonder if these pieces are just going to keep getting shorter? It seems like a good way to get a conversation, with a brief set of musings rather than any attempt at thoroughness.

In any case, it would be hard for me to write more on this movie, since I’ve just seen it twice, once five years ago and once just now, which has sort of refreshed my memory of it and revitalized the questions that buzzed in my mind the first time I saw it. Without answering them.

“If France were destroyed tomorrow and nothing remained but this film, the whole country and its civilization could be reconstructed from it.” ~ Richard Roud.

I’m not even sure how to describe this one. Renoir said his intention was to make to make “an agreeable film” which would nevertheless serve as a critique of a society he considered absolutely rotten. The fact that the film was made in 1939, and was roundly detested by critics and audiences at the time, suggests all kinds of resonances. And I think looking for them is one of the mistakes I made in my viewing, because on first sight the film isn’t obviously allegorical and the moments of critique appear scattered thinly. It is important to situate the film in the context of pre-war France, but you can put that aside until the conclusion, where it unavoidably washes in. The movie’s thematic purpose really all kicks in at the end, when you can look back and see a bit more clearly what the film is doing in this regard. But I suspect a first viewing (and I’ve really had two first viewings, since there was such a long gap between them) should concentrate more on the surface.


On the surface, then, what we have is a country house comedy with an odd tone — the wildlife holocaust in the middle, where Renoir’s camera pauses to observe the death throes of a rabbit in minute detail, certainly makes for uncomfortable viewing. Real death is always a tricky thing on screen. I don’t generally like it, unless the camera has captured a specific death that would have happened anyway, as in LE SANG DES BETES. But I would willingly eat any of the animals slaughtered in Renoir’s film, so I don’t think I have any moral ground to stand on. I do worry about Renoir using this scene as an indictment of the upper classes, when it’s all been staged at his command. But I guess the intention is different. So this is one thing I’d like to hear about.

The other big one is — does anyone find this film funny? It follows the structure of a country house comedy, with Renoir citing Moliere and Mozart as influences (“if you’re picking a master, choose a plump one”), and delivers this bitter aftertaste and social critique, but could one argue that critics and audiences were right to turn away in the sense that the results should contain a few good laughs along the way? Maybe it’s just me.

But having watched the whole thing, this objection does seem to lose all force: Renoir is using farce structure and comic stylisation to tell a tragic story in a different way. The fact that there are only a few barely audible smiles along the way doesn’t really matter. It could be argued that the comic style serves as a metaphor for the frivolous way the characters see their existence, and for us to laugh would be to miss the point.

So that’s two major talking point. I’ll add a third: Marcel Dalio’s eyebrows.


And a fourth: the blocking and camera direction, which I could really appreciate even on these isolated viewings. Farce is notoriously hard to do onscreen, as Richard Lester has observed — the laugh depends on a character going in one door and coming out another, so the minute the director cuts or moves the camera, the audience forgets which door is which and the laugh is gone. The spacial unity of the stage is normally a prerequisite. Renoir makes a virtue out of confusion, and even a theme out of it: his camera is constantly saying to us, with an exaggerated Gallic shrug, “But there is too much going on.”

We might be focused on one grouping, and another set of characters will dash through the frame, engrossed in their own plotline. Or we will swish-pan off one confrontation onto another, sometimes arriving a second before the frame is filled with bustling action, sometimes alighting on a subplot in media res. In the Danse Macabre sequence this reaches a dizzying zenith of choreographic excellence achieving Pure Cinema in the midst of the theatrical.


This kind of thing benefits enormously from actors who can move, and here the standouts for me were Dalio and his majordome Corneille, played by Eddy Debray, who barely registers as a character because he’s so devoted to the task at hand, but is extremely nimble and elegant, packing his entire characterisation into a few clipped gestures. The way he snaps his fingers for help when young Jackie faints, before her body has even hit the floor… suave.

Editing by Mme Huguet and “Marguerite.” That’s Marguerite Renoir.

Production design by Max Douy and Eugene Lourie, whose participation makes Renoir a single handshake away from GORGO.

Assistant director, Henri-Cartier Bresson. I think you might be wasting this man’s talents, Jean. Ever consider giving him a camera?

Cinematography by whoever was around. Including the brother, but hey, it’s a talented family. How Papa Jean attained such a unified look and such dynamic results with such a disparate pack of cameramen I can’t figure.

Costumes by Coco Chanel — OK, Fiona will definitely want to watch this.

STOP PRESS — I show the film to Fiona, who enjoys it greatly, more than I did first time, and this time I get a lot more from it. I also find it pretty funny. Without attempting to be exhaustive (impossible), I can now say a bit more. Second time through, you gain the ability to admire the construction as it plays out, magnificently. I’m more and more impressed with Paulette Dubost as Lisette, the maid (Blimey! She’s still alive!)


Fiona becomes curious about pre-war Chanel, which is not her area of expertise. We agree though that Mila Parély has the best outfits in this. Fiona reckons that Coco would have enjoyed all that hunting garb since she always liked adapting men’s tailoring to women’s outfits.

I haven’t even talked about Renoir himself, as actor. The epitome of the elegant fat man, but with more punch and vigour than you’d expect, and more than ought to be compatible with grace and sensitivity, but it’s all there, and all turned up to eleven. Why on Earth didn’t he act more, in other people’s films if not his own? Perhaos as a result of the failure of this one. He obviously liked getting in front of the cameras though, since he squeezed himself into things like LE TESTAMENT DU DR CORDELIER, and filmed intros to several of his ’30s films.


And Julien Carette as Marceau the poacher is an interesting figure — the most confident, socially mobile and knowingly amoral character in the film. I’m fascinated by his easy relationship with Dalio — which counts for nothing in the end, he’s no more than an amusement to his master. Carette is very appealing under most circumstances, but utterly revolting whenever he flirts. The sleazy simper technique: what woman could resist? It doesn’t wholly surprise me to learn that Carette was burned to death by his own nylon shirt.

Fiona mentions GOSFORD PARK, and it’s an interesting comparison. Altman often made himself unpopular with audiences by pushing tragedy and comedy into uncomfortable proximity, which is exactly what LA REGLE does. Of course, this film is incredibly tight and pre-planned, although Renoir was clearly very smart about incorporating chance and improvisation into his machinations. Altman’s successful films tend to start with a tight structure that no amount of furious demolition can shake, then he lets the players pull in every direction at once while he cocks his head and listens to the music of the narrative popping its rivets. A WEDDING is another obvious comparison here, but that one’s purer comedy.


And I’m totally convinced that the last shot, shadows passing along a wall, the figures hidden by a balustrade, is evoking Plato’s shadows in the allegory of the cave. Anybody confirm this? Something about mistaking shadows for reality could be a theme here, and at any rate it’s a good Shadowplay note to finish on.

41 Responses to “FC3: A new definition of the word “accident””

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    Renoir stated in his memoirs that he considered hunting needless cruelty. Speaking as an indifferent vegetarian, the hunting scene isn’t meant to be a paen to animal rights but rather a display of the casual cruelty indulged by that class of society. They aren’t going to eat the rabbits and pheasants they shot or use them for trophies, they kill because its leisure and the way they do it, send out servants to scare them out of the holes while they stand back and kill them on the way out and then the actual killing isn’t a pretty spectacle by any stretch. Formally it’s a radical alienating effect because up till then it’s a light film about marital infidelity but suddenly and shockingly you get a sense of the violence within that world.

    In the Criterion DVD, there is an extra where in an interview with Rivette, Renoir stated that he did the killing of Jurieu in the end of the film in same manner in which the rabbits were killed. The same finality and permanence. He also said that the world of the film was a society “that kills, kills, kills and will keep killing as long as it survives.”

    THE RULES OF THE GAME is a social critique but it’s not a topical film aside from references to Lindbergh(a Fifth Columnist), the character’s Jewishness and Nora Gregor being an Austrian. When I first saw the film I wondered why it made such a fuss, especially since Renoir said that the film took place between the Munich pact and the invasion of Poland. Neither events referred to or foreshadowed in the film. No hint of the Depression either.

    What it is about is the way in which class relations function in private relationships. It isn’t simply bourgeois controlling the proles or that the bourgeosie have no worries at all. The servants have a hierarchy and a craving for social image to rival their masters for one thing. Then marriages are shown as shams, friendships are revealed to be hollow and personal self-esteem is driven to the ground. Nobody is happy at the end.

    Octave for instance is permanently exiled from Christine because of his weakness and his failure in acting on his desires(and you can sense he wishes he had died instead of Jurieu instead of living with the knowledge of his failure), Christine will have to continue with that sham knowledge both because of Jurieu’s death and Octave’s abandonment at the end. Then there is the permanent sense of fear in which the Dalio lives, his over-the-top parties, his displays of his gadgets all of which mask his fear of being a Jew in that society.

    And the thing is these values – marriage, friendship, honour and personal integrity are at the core of the conservative French ethos in the post-Munich period and Renoir shows that it’s all a lie.

  2. La Faustin Says:

    I first saw La Règle du Jeu as part of a class on the history of France’s Third Republic. In that context, it was hard to see it as not being an allegory. Our professor pointed out that Léon Blum, the dapper Jewish socialist leader of the Front Populaire (“the revolution in pearl grey gloves”) had replied, when urged by his supporters to counter right wing groups’ slander and rabble rousing with the same from the left, “Those are not the rules of the game”. This seems almost too perfect – could I be imagining it?

    I was struck at the time by the fact that the only people who took direct action to break out of the farcical vortex, Christine and Schumacher, were teutonic. It seemed to tie in with a lot of rueful French germanophilia of the era (I’m thinking of Giraudoux specifically). Given that Renoir originally planned to cast Simone Simon as Christine – the character became Austrian because she was played by Nora Gregor, who fled Austria after the Anschluss – History takes credit both as casting director and as scenarist.

    Does anyone know if the role of Robert de La Chesnaye was always meant to be played by Dalio? It would be wonderful if the aristocrat’s Jewish origins, like his wife’s foreignness, — and the associated bonuses for the film’s dialogue and theme — derived from the hazards of casting.

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    Another film from 1939, another country house farce, another comedy of infidelity: Leisen’s MIDNIGHT (co-written by an exiled Austrian Jew, Billy Wilder). They make a great double bill. Night and day.

    Nora Gregor: on earlier viewings, I considered her clumsy and even mannered. In her first appearance her ill-fitting and cheap-looking sleeveless gown is as much a distraction as Dalio’s eye make-up. But I am finally seeing just how wondrous she is, adding so much tragic dimension to the film. She has this thing for lurching her head back and staring up, off into infinity that indicates she is being controlled by some mysterious, profoundly dreadful force. Our friendly wikipedist tells us that she was also Jewish, consorted with right-wing extremists in the 1930s, and ended up in a very bad way in South America before committing suicide before she was 50. Her sole Hollywood outing, BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK (32) gets aired on TCM from time to time, usually on Robert Montgomery days, and despite a heavy accent, she got the full MGM glam treatment, looking completely ravishing in Oliver Marsh’s lighting. In fact, our first glimpse of her is with her back to the camera, in a backless evening gown.

  4. Arthur S. Says:

    Renoir insisted on Dalio to play the role. That’s clear in the Rivette documentary where Renoir and Dalio return to the chateau where they shot the film and talk about the film on the steps. In-between put downs of modern architecture, Dalio asked Renoir why he cast someone as dark featured as him as an aristocract and Renoir said that he knew aristocracts like Dalio. Whether anything more needs to be read into that is up for grabs.

    Dalio in LA GRANDE ILLUSION plays a middle-class Jewish son of a banker drafted into the army(modelled on the de Rothschields, if I am not mistaken) and in that film(which pissed off Goebbels and Hitler even if it won a prize at Mussolini’s Venice Film Festival) there is a scene where Jean Gabin’s working class Frenchman insults Dalio with an anti-semitic slur in anger despite being close friends.

    I don’t know what you mean by Germanophilia among Frenchman(one of Renoir’s best friends Carl Koch was German) but Schumacher isn’t German. He is an Alsatian, from Alsace (which was of course a political bone of contention entre deux guerres) and he’s played by Gaston Modot who’s French.

  5. David Boxwell Says:

    Apparently, both Mila Parely and Paulette Dubost are still alive, in their 90s.

    The air of hysteria suffusing the farce is best embodied in Parely’s high-pitched voice. It’s what makes the farce so UNfunny, so desperate. In her 1995 interview (on the Criterion collection second disc), she talks about how she was relieved that she got to do one scene (with Dalio in her character’s Paris apartment overlooking the Palais de Tokyo) which she plays using her normal vocal register.

  6. David Boxwell Says:

    Modot’s tears: I don’t know of any film from the 1930s in which a male actor is allowed to weep so copiously. A tear or two, OK, but Modot’s face is positively drenched. Another great double-bill with Renoir’s film: Bunuel’s L’AGE D’OR (30). Modot’s ludicrous sexual frustration in the earlier film turns tragically violent in Renoir’s.

  7. One of my favourite scenes is where Octave and Christine are talking together in the greenhouse. I think it is one of the most genuine and moving encounters in the whole film It evokes for me Rilke’s statement about love consisting of two solitudes protecting and touching and greeting each other. Most of the other encounters are predicated on the social, and seem as superficial and mechanical as Robert’s gadgets.

  8. According to Richard Roud, Renoir cast Gregor because he was in love with her, which he then masochistically plays on in the film. But, with admirable clear-headedness, he realized her weaknesses as an actress (thick accent, awkward movements) and built up Parely’s role to compensate. I think Gregor emerges with credit because she isn’t overstretched.

    Interesting that Parely’s character has a flat stuffed with Chinoiserie, but she confuses Chinese and Pre-Columbian art when talking to Jackie. So these people are all philistines.

    Great contributions so far, I’m learning tons here!

  9. Arthur S. Says:

    And she exclaims “Buffallo Beelll!” when Jackie mentions Native Americans…Bertolucci in David Thompson’s documentary on Renoir for the BBC mentions that the aristos fit his idea of “eurotrash”.

    Renoir’s love life was pretty tangled in the 30s. His editor Marguerite Houle(who later edited Jacques Becker’s film) called herself Renoir, his first wife Catherine Hessling refused to divorce him and he was involved with Dido Freire(A Brazillian woman who was Alberto Cavalcanti’s niece) who he would flee France with. I don’t know of any attraction to Nora Gregor, maybe a crush at best. In any case, Octave was originally supposed to be played by Pierre Renoir, his older brother before he took on the role(the resemblance between them is pretty strong though Jean has a younger face) after his brother couldn’t make it.

  10. That explains references to Octave being much older than Nora, which doesn’t particularly look to be the case. (Maybe it’s his boyish haircut, or her chiseled features.) Roud seems pretty sure about the romantic link between them, but I don’t know what his source is.

  11. La Faustin Says:

    Arthur S., you’re absolutely right about Schumacher being Alsatian – I used the term “teutonic” to try to pull him into a classification of “German or German-influenced” which may simply be too much of a stretch.

    Germanophilia – this is, again, going to be vague, perhaps to the point of uselessness. Between the wars, there was an opposition between the received ideas of “French” (subtle, rational, nuanced, hypercivilized, tolerant, futile) and “German” (virile, single- or simple-minded, direct) cultural qualities. This could be expressed in high culture (Giraudoux’ play SIEGFRIED ET LE LIMOUSIN) or in the day-to-day prattle of the blackmarketeering cheesemongers in Tourneur’s novel of the Occupation, AU BON BEURRE. There was an exasperated current of French thought that GERMANY wouldn’t put up with [the younger generation helling around in Montmartre/a working class that didn’t know its place/a government led by a Jew who had written a book on free love/decadent and depressing art/the Stavisky scandal/etc.]. I’m not saying that Renoir endorsed this simplistic division or came down on one side or the other, but that it seems to be echoed by the contrast between Robert’s civilized waffling and Christine’s impulse to break free, not to mention Schumacher’s disastrous direct action.

    This film and Duvivier’s CARNET DE BAL, while we’re constructing double bills, leave the audience moaning, “Are these people really going to have to fight a war? Oh god …”

  12. Schumacher (Christine tells her husband to pronounce it the German way, but he never does) certainly seems to embody the more brutalist aspects of Teutonic culture. We don’t really find out if he’s anti-semitic like his friend, but the friend seems to assume so.

    I remember Carne complaining that Renoir had said that Quais des Brumes cost France the war, but La Regle de Jeu seems far more demoralizing! Renoir saying that nothing in the film deserved to be preserved isn’t really the kind of thing to motivate a spirited fight, although Renoir threw himself into national defense (he was immediately made an officer, unlike Carne).

    The fact that Jacques Tati was in the French army always makes me go “Oh God,” as well. A genius, but no Audie Murphy.

  13. Arthur S. Says:

    I read somewhere that Tati spent most of the Occupation in the small French village in which he shot JOUR DE FETE because he went AWOL.

    Renoir later defended THE RULES OF THE GAME by saying that he grew up among people who were incapable of taking lies for truth and shared that same sensibility with the French public who it seems were not in a good mood to recieve the message.

    Carne was apparently not allowed ranking in the army because he was gay.

  14. Tati initially was part of the fleeing French army, and got lost, wandered in the countryside, nearly starved. I think once the occupation began he spent a lot of time performing his mime act in Berlin, and at one point planned a film called The Invasion of Berlin — the city was full of French entertainers! Then I think he sensed that such a project might still prove controversial (there’s still no official French state history of WWII and probably never will be).

    I like the scene where Octave says that the whole world lies, and the wide shot has a big stone globe in the foreground.

  15. david wingrove Says:

    My God – Paulette Dubost is not only still alive but still working! Her last film, according to the IMDB, was as recent as 2007!

    She’s a good 10 years older than Danielle Darrieux, whom I’ve always thought of as the oldest working actress in France is not the whole of Western Europe!!

  16. She certainly seemed full of energy in LRDJ.

  17. Gosford Park is quite explicitly a hommage to <i.Rules of the Game. As I recall Altman even said so.

    Renoir is funny-dryly-amusing rather than funny-ha-ha.

    The image the film presents of master and Servants intermingling and class relations in flux is its principle claim to being “political statement” IMO.

  18. But the class relations resolve in the end. The aviator hero is killed and his failure brother exiled. The poacher returns to the woods. Even the gamekeeper gets his job back, since it’s part of the hastily-constructed “accident” story that he was doing his duty at the time. So the status quo rules.

    Maybe if Renoir had constructed his film as a country house murder mystery it would have been more successful, but I suspect it’s the whole tone that was the problem.

  19. Arthur S. Says:

    Renoir could be funny ha-ha…as in the two Michel Simon films and in portions of his other films and in LA REGLE DU JEU.

    In so far as it proposes no solution to any of the issues it raises or considers any alternative, the film isn’t a political statement at all. And I don’t think it was ever intended as a political statement of any sorts the way LE CRIME DE MONSIEUR LANGE undoubtedly is. It is a social critique but so is GREAT EXPECTATIONS and that’s not anybody’s idea of a political novel.

    Just out of curiosity, David, when did you first see the film?

  20. Arthur S. Says:

    The thing is that the class relations re-integrate the status-quo by mutual consent and benefit and it happens because of a murder that is simultaneously premeditated and accidental. Schumacher was going to kill someone, he just killed the wrong man. If he killed Octave, it would mean that Schumacher would go to jail for murderous jealousy. Because he killed famous hero on master’s premises, a cover up is needed.

    THE RULES OF THE GAME is in a way a pre-RASHOMON take on the irreconcilable subjectivity of human beings. This is especially evident when Christine uses that eyeglass to spy on Mila Parely hugging Robert. This is when she learns of the affair but she doesn’t know(and never finds out) that the affair had just ended and that was a goodbye embrace. The image she sees is simultaneously true and false.

    Since GOSFORD PARK is brought up, another influence on that film which succeeds Renoir is Reed’s THE FALLEN IDOL. Which is about a boy’s subjective imagination nearly wreaking havoc and also an account of servants blues in master’s house.

  21. La Faustin Says:

    Is anyone else getting double vision? One eye sees through the perspective of 1939, where a bunch of privileged fools unleash slaughter like Bertie Wooster with a tommygun. The other sees a luminous little bubble world that, whatever Renoir thought at the time, is cherishable in retrospect. Scene after scene you find yourself saying “In light of what was to follow…” The chateau itself is beautiful and hospitable to dowager and poacher alike. Upstairs and down, people understand the importance of pouring the wine on the potatoes while they’re still boiling hot. The brutality of the hunt is upstaged by the ceremony of placing the hunters and beating the game forward. Christine’s Austrian origin evokes the same kind of aristocratic Internationale Ophuls got nostalgic about in MADAME DE… And then you realize you’re allying yourself with the old buffer who says “Class is growing rarer nowadays.”

    There is something very French about the fact that Robert’s lineage is trumped by his savoir faire – he knows how potato salad should be prepared and how an awkward death should be spun. It reminds you of those stories of little African children, during the colonial period, chanting “Our ancestors, the Gauls …”

  22. I’d say the slaughter of the hunt upstages the ceremony rather than the other way around. The amusing nature of the story and the dashing performances make the film superficially very charming, but there’s a definite malaise being felt all the while. And Ophuls’ nostalgia is very double-edged also.

    My take on the General was that the first time he says “Class…” it seems like maybe has a point, the second time you realize it’s just his catchphrase. It’s similar to the way other characters change in your understanding. I found Christine lost sympathy around the time she was bouncing from her fourth to her fifth man. Dalio startles you be how coolly he finally accepts Christine’s leaving him (although he perhaps expects to get her back when the money runs out).

  23. Oh, I first saw them film about six years ago, I think. No, probably more like eight. Saw it with my octogenarian friend, who loved smartly dressed French people in nice houses: that was what he liked about Bunuel! But we couldn’t really warm to it.

    So this double screening was a nice surprise and a treat. It was prepared for by a student who screened the Danse Macabre scene in a class, and I thought, “Wow, how did I not realize how amazing this is before?”

  24. I hope I’m not the only one in here familiar with Roland Toutain’s films with Marcel L’Herbier.

    In casting Toutain Renoir completely ignores his acrobatic agility — of a sort not seen again until Belondo in L’Homme de Rio.

    I would imagine that French audiences were disappoined at seeing such an earthbound Toutain in this film.

  25. “although Renoir threw himself into national defense (he was immediately made an officer, unlike Carne)”

    Well, not as immediatly, as he had been an officer in WW1, as a matter of fact, he was an officer pre-WW1: young Renoir looked forward a military life, and was already a cavalry officer in 1913.

    As for La Régle du Jeu, I like to watch it as the story of three intruders: Jurieu, Octave and Marceau. Jurieu is too earnest and noble to survive the world into which his innocent heart has led him. By contrast both Octave and Marceau’s more cynical approach and eventual cowardice grants their survival, but also their defeat in the game. Octave holds an unique over-the-fence position, for Jurieu is amoreux for the lady, and Marceau for the maid, but only Octave plays around in both sides of the class frontier.

    I agree Renoir is brilliant as an actor: maybe that’s why he didn’t despise performers as some other auteur directors did.

  26. Off-topic, but — Sammy Petrillo est mort

    High time Shadowplay examined Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla

  27. […] David Cairns’ film club rolls on (Renoir-style)! I won’t miss any of these, from now […]

  28. I’ve caught up on a few films from my Pictorial History of Horror Movies recently, but unaccountably BLMABG isn’t in that book. I’ll see it eventually. Petrillo was an… interesting marginal figure.

    That’s interesting Gloria. Carne’s bio says he was envious of Renoir’s position and felt he was being held back due to homophobia, which was very possibly true, but JR’s previous experience offers another explanation for his preferment.

    Alas, I haven’t seen L’Herbier’s thrillers, they seem to be quite unavailable at present. I only just snagged a bootleg of La Nuit Fantastique fairly recently (and very nice it is too).

  29. david wingrove Says:

    Other films possibly inspired by RULES OF THE GAME (and infinitely more amusing than GOSFORD PARK) are Ingmar Bergman’s lyrical pastoral comedy SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT and Paul Bartel’s majestic Hollywood satire SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN BEVERLY HILLS. The latter, in particular, is grossly underrated and underexplored.

  30. Arthur S. Says:

    I am not that big on SMILES…, neither is Woody Allen.

    Rules of the Game has influenced many, many films. Fassbinder’s CHINESE ROULETTE is a post-modern punk take on aristocracts and servants in a country manor(which David E. says was Michael Ballhaus’ family estate and Michael Ballhaus is Max Ophuls’ nephew…it’s a small world after all). In India, Satyajit Ray’s sole film in Hindi/Urdu THE CHESS PLAYERS(which has a great performance by Richard Attenborough) has a similar perspective on class relations set around two entitled aristocracts and filled with a dry wit.

    In France, Resnais’ MARIENBAD echoes the tone of the Danse Macabre scene and the sense of the permanence of the house at the end of RULES is there at the end of Marienbad. Then Chabrol’s LA CEREMONIE takes after Genet’s THE MAIDS but the parallellism between the master culture and the servant culture carries over from Regle du Jeu. You’ll find homages and references here and there in French cinema to that film which is considered a national treasure.

    That said I don’t think it’s had much of an American influence. I might be wrong of course. Someone like Martin Scorsese for instance says that he doesn’t get THE RULES OF THE GAME and that it’s not a favourite like GRAND ILLUSION or THE RIVER is. Woody Allen likes the film a lot and you can find an influence of it on CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS or HANNAH AND HER SISTERS even if Woody’s way more serious. Altman is the other key one and aspects of RULES OF THE GAME is there in NASHVILLE, A WEDDING and then the direct hommage in GOSFORD PARK. Renoir is one of Altman’s confessed favourites(and he’s not a big cinephillic guy prone to waxing on about his masters). Paul Schrader considers the best film ever made even if I can’t really see the influence in his films.

  31. Indirect influence, I guess — Schrader recycles images from Marienbad in The Comfort of Strangers. Schrader’s influences are usually worn on his sleeve, but I suspect La Regle de Jeu is too elusive for him to copy from, unless he gets a similar subject matter.

    I would guess that possibly the swinging, panning and tracking camerawork Renoir sometimes deploys may have crept into Scorsese around the time of Goodfellas. But there are other possible sources for that.

  32. I have a soft spot for Jenny Hélia:

  33. That was lovely!

  34. Christopher Says:

    young Jean as painted by his famous father..maybe about to draw a rabbit kiliing..

  35. Dalio’s facial expression as he’s showing off his musical contraption to the guests is my very favorite moment of the film.

    Funny this being one of the first film club entries. A few years ago (whenever Criterion released the 2-disc DVD) I thought I’d start inviting friends over for weekly movie screenings. Maybe six people showed for Rules of the Game. Beginning around the rabbit hunt, the mood got increasingly hostile/bored and everyone left disgruntled at the end. Whatever I showed the week after that, I watched alone. So yeah, long live internet film club!

  36. ————–
    Dalio’s facial expression as he’s showing off his musical contraption to the guests is my very favorite moment of the film
    Yes, Renoir said that it might be the best shot he ever filmed. In a way, it epitomizes a major theme of the film, that of desire and joy and happiness and its suppression and denial. It’s quite a Shakespearian film. I often think that Octave is a little like Falstaff, fully human in his zest for life and love, yet uncertain and a bit cowardly.
    Renoir captures the constant flow and flux of life in all its contradictions and ironies within a universe that is indivisible.

  37. Arthur S. Says:

    Orson Welles certainly didn’t think Falstaff was a coward.

    If THE RULES OF THE GAME is like Shakespeare, then it’s AS YOU LIKE IT or THE TEMPEST. The former is about love triangles and quadrilaterals(and the joy of cross-dressing!) and it’s set in this remote place. THE TEMPEST is similarly this multi-faceted ensemble piece of different characters scheming and plotting and constantly overlapping each other and is likewise about masters and servants and flux in class relations.

    Of course Renoir makes THE RULES OF THE GAME without a single main figure. No Prospero in LA REGLE DU JEU. It’s really a completely ensemble work. No character dominates the dramatic action more than any other. We can play favourites(I like Octave, Marceau, Robert and Christine) but Renoir doesn’t. It’s unlike anything else at that time in the 30s.

    Octave is a very likable guy and he is the man who arranges for Andre to arrive at the Chateau and he tries to be the friend of both Andre’s and Christine, “his little Salzburg girl”(as he calls her) and in the film’s final movement(to use a musical term) he takes stage literally, as shown in that magnificent still above where he impersonates Christine’s father and realizes at once that he’s failed to live up to his artistic dreams. It’s a stunning scene and wonderfully acted by Renoir, it nearly made me cry to see him break through his illusions about his life. And it’s also a key Renoir theme anticipating THE GOLDEN COACH, “where does theatre end and where does life begin”. Octave realizes the truth through theatre.

    Octave’s tragedy is that he’s been in essence a hanger on and a sidekick for a long time and finally he has a chance to take centre stage and become a tragic figure in his own right, only to give up and deny it to himself. And in the end, he has to leave that place forever, banished for good. It’s a really sad life for Octave.

  38. I love the the way Renoir depicts emotion as theatre and theatre as
    emotion. We are forever caught up in our own self-reflexifity.

  39. Welles’s take on Falstaff is quite personal, but he’s right that Falstaff isn’t afraid of life, as Octave is. Falstaff is just, quite sensibly, afraid of violence.

  40. I wouldn’t say that Octave is afraid of life: he likes eating, he likes drinking, he likes dancing (don’t you love the choreography of his chasing Lissette around the table?) and certainly likes frolicking… What scares Octave is to take centre stage.

    “(and the joy of cross-dressing!)”
    I suddenly see Octave’s bear disguise under a much more naughtier light!

  41. Well, centre stage is where you feel most alive. And though he’s not afraid of women he’s afraid of getting hurt in love.

    The idea of Octave’s furry fetish is amusing, and makes me think that if Marienbad is to some extent influenced by ROTG, The Shining, which is certainly influenced by Marienbad, features that odd little spectral cosplay scene… perhaps a nod to Renoir?

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