The Rules of the Game

A flop when first released in 1939, The Rules of the Game presented pre-World War II France in unheroic, foolish microcosm at the country estate of a Jewish aristocrat where servants and masters are equally committed to romantic misbehavior. It didn’t help, of course, that the businesslike Nazis were about to invade and swiftly conquer a nation that director Jean Renoir depicts as being completely frivolous. But in the postwar era, his film grew in estimation, seeming less a farce and more a classic—often ranked second in critics’ polls to Citizen Kane. The reason, in part, for its reevaluation is Rules’ insistence on the humanity beneath the madcap antics and bed-hopping. From the social-climbing rabbit poacher to the cuckolded gentlemen to the silly, straying wives, everyone is accorded their dignity. People may behave ridiculously, but their impulses are utterly serious. Or, to quote one of the most quoted lines in cinema, “Everyone has their reasons.” (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Dec. 1, 7 & 9:15 p.m., 2010

 
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