Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 5. 1964.
Greatest French Film
Greatest French Film
Cahiers du Cinema contributors picked Jean Renoir's 1939 La Regie du Jeu (The Rule of The Game) as the greatest French film ever made.
It is said to have had a great influence on the ymuitf writers and directors of the Nouvelle Vague.
Richard Whitehall called it "the masterwork of a great director" in an appreciative article in Filins and Filmings' series called Great Films of the Century (November, 1962).
With high hopes then, I approached the Victoria University Film Society's screening expecting something of the standard of La Grande Illusion or Partie de Campagne, not even remotely expecting that this chronicle of a week-end in the country should have dated so disastrously.
It was not a case of being put off by incidentals—the plucked eyebrows, furniture and clothes of the Thirties—but simply that the socialites depicted seemed so much like amateur actors impersonating what they Imagined high society to be like.
There is no question about Renoir's technique however.
His camera mobility and use of deep focus to show several actions within a frame is masterful.
Such sequences as the arrival of the guests during a downpour or the chase in which the pistol brandishing gamekeeper turns the party into an uproar testify to his mastery of the medium.
It is the ends towards which this beautifully assured technique is the means, which are not so persuasively interesting; distractions are too often provided by the inconsistencies of plot and character.
The cause of a large amount of my discontent can be attributed to the jarring styles of acting by the principals. There is Renoir himself as Octave, the main pivot of the action, overenthusiastically throwing around his arms and voice (as out of place in this social atmosphere as Jean Paul Belmondo I was in the family of A Double Tour).
Marcel Dalio, as the Maquis, is as suave, elegant and self-assured as he should be—as convincing as a Maquis as Norah Gregor is not, in the part of his unfaithful wife.
She has no ability to suggest a woman swayed by love and torn by conflicting claims; nothing could cause even a furrow to appear on her face let alone any change of expression.
Her indecisive switching of affection from her husband to her ex-lover to her old friend and back again is not feasible, at least in terms of this actress' non-performance. Just as incredible is Renoir's attempt to metamorphose a dull personality and unremarkable features into the character of a femme fatale.
A similar strain on my credulity was produced by the carryings-on, amongst their employers and the guests, of the staff.
I just don't believe that such a collection of the highly self esteeming haute bourgeoisie shown here would allow such forwardness and intrusion—insolence even—on the part of the servants in the presence of their employers.
Finally, there is the question of Renoir's aim in La Regie du Jeu.
The foreword states that the film is intended as entertainment and not social commentary. Well it is, covertly if not overtly, and such a statement cannot be used as a preliminary ploy in case the film's message is lost along the way. The commentary comes across all right, it is the entertainment that never quite makes it.