The Rules of the Game (1939)

 The Rules of the Game is the famous, classic French film directed by masterful Jean Renoir. It is commonly regarded as one of the best French as well as overall films of all time and while I can see that in some ways, particularly in its comple

The Rules of the Game Review

The Rules of the Game is a famous, classic French film directed by masterful Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion) . It is commonly regarded as one of the best French as well as overall films of all time and while I can see that in some ways, particularly in its complex theme, I still found it disappointing on multiple levels.

The biggest problem I have with the film is character development which is so-so. That is mostly due to its large, too big ensemble cast composed of way too many characters thus giving little room for genuine characterization. It gets better afterwards, particularly near the end, but it is still one of the major flaws that definitely hurts the film.

The plot is good, it is difficult to follow early on, but it again gets better as it progresses with an excellent last act which lifts the whole movie to higher levels. It shows the complex themes wonderfully and it concludes the story perfectly with a very satisfying and very well crafted ending. The theme is the one of moral callousness of the upper class just before the war. It is an important theme and it is easy to see why audiences unfortunately had trouble with it when it was originally released. And although it is not apparent and well executed earlier, the second half sees its realization in a great way and it is undoubtedly the finest aspect of the movie. And the whole finale is powerful because it shows how jealousy and confusion can have deadly consequences for the persons involved.

The film is a comedy of manners while also being a drama and there lies a problem. While it has some funny moments, there definitely should have been more of them as well as dramatic moments in the first half. The second half saves the film because it is dramatic, but the first half remains troubling indeed. And the pacing is problematic with the whole hunting scenes regularly interrupting the story flow, but those sequences nevertheless show how some can kill with ease and with no apparent reason which is an unmistakable allegory of the war that was impending upon the film’s release.

My biggest problem here is, after the characterization, the constant gossip and yelling of the characters and the never-ending noise they produce. It shows their attitude towards one another and how things can escalate, but it is just too much. Thankfully the third act saved the movie with its quieter approach and with better character development as well. The soundtrack is nowhere to be found, but that is okay given the yelling and music playing thus perfectly fitting the story and situation. But the direction is splendid and of course the cinematography is stunning, very advanced for its time and it definitely brings the polished, more sophisticated look to an already complex film.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that it is very memorable, especially the hunting sequences and the ending. All those scenes stay in your memory which is great. The acting is also excellent, all of the cast gave respectable performances. The tone is also wonderfully handled, shifting from genre to genre with ease. And the approach is very grounded lending itself to evident realism. It is also evidently smart with a wonderful message and theme with superb dialogue all around.

All in all, The Rules of the Game has wonderful themes, terrific direction, amazing cinematography, great tone and acting, memorable scenes and a great allegory with a fantastic third act, but it suffers from so-so character development, constant noise and a failure to capture its complex themes to the full extent, thus making it a solid, but very disappointing movie.

My Rating – 3.5

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Posted in 1930s, 1939, Comedy, Drama, Foreign, French and tagged , , , .

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