The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu)

1939

The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu)

Critics Consensus

Its genius escaped many viewers at the time, but in retrospect, The Rules of the Game stands as one of Jean Renoir's -- and cinema's -- finest works.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 47

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 10,192
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The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu) Photos

Movie Info

Now often cited as one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu/Rules of the Game was not warmly received on its original release in 1939: audiences at its opening engagements in Paris were openly hostile, responding to the film with shouts of derision, and distributors cut the movie from 113 minutes to a mere 80. It was banned as morally perilous during the German occupation and the original negative was destroyed during WWII. It wasn't until 1956 that Renoir was able to restore the film to its original length. In retrospect, this reaction seems both puzzling and understandable; at its heart, Rules of the Game is a very moral film about frequently amoral people. A comedy of manners whose wit only occasionally betrays its more serious intentions, it contrasts the romantic entanglements of rich and poor during a weekend at a country estate. André Jurieu (Roland Toutain), a French aviation hero, has fallen in love with Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor), who is married to wealthy aristocrat Marquis Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio). Robert, however, has a mistress of his own, whom he invites to a weekend hunting party at his country home, along with André and his friend Octave (played by Jean Renoir himself). Meanwhile, the hired help have their own game of musical beds going on: a poacher is hired to work as a servant at the estate and immediately makes plans to seduce the gamekeeper's wife, while the gamekeeper recognizes him only as the man who's been trying to steal his rabbits. Among the upper classes, infidelity is not merely accepted but expected; codes are breached not by being unfaithful, but by lacking the courtesy to lie about it in public. The weekend ends in a tragedy that suggests that this way of life may soon be coming to an end. Renoir's witty, acidic screenplay makes none of the characters heroes or villains, and his graceful handling of his cast is well served by his visual style. He tells his story with long, uninterrupted takes using deep focus (cinematographer Jean Bachelet proves a worthy collaborator here), following the action with a subtle rhythm that never calls attention to itself. The sharply-cut hunting sequence makes clear that Renoir avoided more complex editing schemes by choice, believing that long takes created a more lifelike rhythm and reduced the manipulations of over-editing. Rules of the Game uses WWI as an allegory for WWII, and its representation of a vanishing way of life soon became all too true for Renoir himself, who, within a year of the film's release, was forced to leave Europe for the United States.. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Cast

Marcel Dalio
as Robert de la Chesnaye
Nora Gregor
as Christine de La Chesnaye
Roland Toutain
as André Jurieu
Mila Parely
as Genevieve de Marrast
Roland Tourain
as Andre Jurieu
Gaston Modot
as Schumacher
Odette Talazac
as Charlotte de la Plante
Pierre Magnier
as The General
Pierre Nay
as M. de Saint-Aubin
Richard Francoeur
as M. La Bruyere
Claire Gerard
as Mme. La Bruyere
Anne Mayen
as Jackie
Roger Forster
as Effeminate Guest
Nicolas Amato
as The South American
Eddy Debray
as Corneille
Leon Larive
as The Cook
Jenny Hélia
as The Servant
Celestin
as Kitchen Servant
Lise Elina
as The Radio Reporter
Henri Cartier-Bresson
as The English Domestic
André Zwoboda
as The Engineer from Caudron's
Antoine Corteggiani
as Berthelin, the Huntsman
Camille François
as Radio Announcer, The Announcer
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Critic Reviews for The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu)

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (14)

  • The word "Mozartean"... gets thrown around a little too eagerly by critics, but one movie, as almost everyone agrees, deserves this supreme benediction -- Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game.

    Jun 3, 2014 | Full Review…

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • On the surface, a lace of flirtations, insinuations and rejections compose the basic plotting. But Renoir uses flashes of accelerating drama to amplify his bigger points.

    Jun 3, 2014 | Full Review…
  • As an experiment it's interesting, but Jean Renoir has made a common error: he attempts to crowd too many ideas into 80 minutes of film fare, resulting in confusion.

    Jul 6, 2010 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The mobile camera seems to be a member of the party, as it follows the almost balletically choreographed movements of the cast. The effect for the audience is transcendental. We are watching life at its messiest, unfolding at its most beautiful.

    Apr 26, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A disaster when initially released, the movie's reputation has only grown since.

    Feb 16, 2007 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • There are about a dozen genuine miracles in the history of cinema, and one of them is Jean Renoir's supreme 1939 tragi-comedy The Rules of the Game.

    Dec 28, 2006 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu)

  • Sep 24, 2018
    A mostly average film, with average acting and plot (3 stars), plus half a star for its social satire (3.5 stars), minus half a star for its extended bunny/pheasant massacre (3 stars, and good lord, I don't care if this is commentary on man's cruelty, it's awful). At its best, director Jean Renoir gives us brilliant criticism of just how vapid and morally bereft the bourgeoisie of his day were, putting the mirror up so close to French society that audiences were outraged and booing in the cinema. While his characters are jovial enough in various social gatherings, they have no scruples, sincerity, or intellectual depth, and spouses cheat on one another not so much out of real passion or love for someone else, but out of ennui. "Sincere people are such bores," one says, reflecting a lack of values. They calmly slaughter bunnies that have been driven towards them, considering it a "hunt", one laughs as he relates the story of a man who died in a self-inflicted gun accident, and later there is a remarkable lack of real concern or empathy when someone else is hurt (being vague on purpose). They goof around sophomorically in front of servants, who clearly don't respect them, but the servants themselves also have their own infidelities. In 'The Rules of the Game', there are very few real rules, just the entitlement to make up the rules that comes with wealth. The characters are maddeningly unlikeable, and of course, that's the point. Renoir does some interesting work with the camera in the film, putting it in motion almost as if it's a character or we're voyeurs into these scenes as the audience, but I think more is made of this than it should be. Similarly, I don't put much in the fact that the film was made in 1939 and released less than a year before Germany invaded France; to me that seems more coincidence than Renoir's statement that it is a "war film and yet there is no reference to the war." As the action picks up in the second half, with guests scurrying around the chateau either to arrange for or break up trysts, it feels very much like a Hollywood screwball comedy from the period, with farcical elements and attempts at humor which aren't all that funny (e.g. the bear suit). There's enough here to make the film watchable, but it's hard to understand how it ended up so highly regarded.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 02, 2013
    I hope I managed to see the restored director's cut but even if it was not, I still appreciated the camera work in this film. The humour only serves to punctuate the tragedy.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 20, 2012
    Concealing a lot of complexity in its apparently simple plot, this fabulous tragicomedy (which almost got lost in History) is a witty and clever commentary on the rules of bourgeoisie and social relations - a classic of French Cinema to be seen and re-seen many times.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 14, 2012
    The Rules of the Game goes down as an instant classic, much like the effect Citizen Kane or The Godfather had on me. Although the first bit of the movie is quite confusing, once you learn the faces and names of the characters, The Rules of the Game is a masterpiece. The characters are magnificently built and overall, this is one of the most well made films I have ever seen. Favorite Scene: The hunting scene
    Anthony L Super Reviewer

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