The Rules of the Game

Jean Renoir's 1939 masterpiece follows the amorous exploits of a group of aristocrats invited to a hunting party at a French château. Their hectic intrigues find an uncanny echo in the affairs of their servants, upstairs and downstairs comically crossing paths on the way to a tragic conclusion. The film's dazzlingly labyrinthine script never mentions the coming war, yet its menace permeates a milieu that seems to have lost all moral compass, and where the ideal of happiness had been sacrificed to one of mere amusement. It is required viewing, if only to understand the ideal that filmmakers from Robert Altman to Woody Allen have been after. And even if you think you know it, see it again for its newly rediscovered depth of field, and even more, for its infinite wellsprings of character and empathy. (NR) LESLIE CAMHI

Nov. 20-25, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2009

 
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