Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Rules of the Game


Dir: Jean Renoir

Oft cited as one of the greatest films ever made, Renoir's careful critique of the French aristocracy is indeed a wonder to behold purely at the technical level. The Citizen Kane parallels are obvious and frequent, with the choreography between camera and every element in every frame minutely timed. Think of the opening shot of Touch of Evil, but within one room and for an hour. Way down the hallway, in the corner of the screen, characters will be interacting in ways that will be important two minutes later. That must have taken forever to get right.

What Kane adds, though, is a emotional connection that I found lacking in this film. The characters are largely aloof rich folks, for whom love and compassion have become oh so boring, and who now dally in affairs for the sport of it and never seem to find happiness. That casual, European stereotype of cynical love is of course fine fodder for a movie, and it is handled masterfully in The Rules of the Game. But the subject matter requires distance between characters, and the technique of the film creates distance from the audience. The few characters (including one played by renoir himself) who do have true depth of emotion are frustrated by the system, the game that dictates all interactions.

It is not fair to critique a film for that distance. And I am not doing so. Those stories should be told as well. But it is impossible to escape the fact that this particular film will never be as enjoyable, in terms of raw pleasure, a movie watching experience as an equally good but more passionate story. In the Kane v. Casablanca debate, I say Casablanca. Rules of the Game is Kane.

Behold the prowess of the filmaker. Study his every shot. Ponder over the reason one character is turned at 30 degress as opposed to 45. But I would probably not take this film on the desert island with me.

I must be searching for negative things to say. Look, this movie has tons going for it, and is historically essential. Obvisouly you should see it.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/02/2006 06:09:00 PM that...

Two thoughts:

1. Rules of the Game is one of those precious films where the emotional affect matures with subsequent viewings.

2. Listen to the commentary. And appreciation happens on a whole new level.

...not to say you did not appreciate it.

With that said, for a purely enjoyable cinema moment, I prefer Grand Illusion. BME.