La règle du jeu
(The Rules of the Game)

La règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939) wr. Jean Renoir, Carl Koch; Nora Gregor, Marcel Dalio, Jean Renoir, Gaston Modot, Paulette Dubost, Mila Parély, Odette Talazac, Claire Gérard, Julien Carette, etc.

When I was ‘teaching’ Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) I followed the American line that Gregg Toland had, alone and uninfluenced, invented ‘deep focus’. Now at last I’ve seen La règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939). I don’t actually know if Toland or Welles had seen Renoir’s film when they came to make Kane, but there’s no doubt that there’s nothing that Toland does with depth of field that Renoir and his cameramen had not already done two years before. (2017)

I just saw this again in 2020, without at all remembering that I had seen it in 2017, so I am clearly not worthy of viewing this great film, and you should ignore anything I might write. About the script, for example, which is a bit of a mess, and leaves lots of room for improvisation, which I've never thought is a good idea, even when it's a John Cassevetes film. It's mainly the acting, tho, that I found most unengaging. It's probably because I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate Renoir's mastery of the genre that this flick inhabits - which is some kind of French comédie de moeurs thing - a 'comedy of manners' - see, it doesn't even translate into English. Each actor seemed to me to be playing a type, not a human being, without plausibility and without development.

Nora Gregor was an Austrian, and Renoir picked her for her looks, apparently, tho she certainly doesn't appeal to me. She reminded me of the Czech blonde that Hitchcock cast in his first sound film, Blackmail, Anny Ondra. Her accent made her so incomprehensible that her lines had to be dubbed by another actress. In the case of Règle, Gregor's acting should have been dubbed, as she doesn't do any. She killed herself at the age of 47. Maybe she saw this film again.

The worst acting, however, is that of the man playing Octave. It's a large role, as he's in most scenes, and for most of the time he's simply a buffoon. It's understandable that he was out of control - because he didn't get any direction - being the director himself.

Other examples of superficial work are Marcel Dalio, who plays the Marquis, and Gaston Modot, who plays his gamekeeper. The one is all smooth, suave sophistication, and the other spends most of his screen time trying to kill someone or anything moving. Fortunately, he finally succeeds in doing so - allowing this forgettable film to be brought to an unsatisfactory end.

reviews | Garry Gillard | New: 1 March, 2017 | Now: 18 September, 2020