Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

French Film Has Quite a History

Cleveland Press November 20, 1963

Jean Renoir's "Rules of the Game" is a film with a history, and as such it is as much a curiosity piece as it is a work of film entertainment.

Director Jean Renoir made this movie just before the outbreak of World War II. The French were not receptive to such a cruel and biting commentary on their social structure and its customs. The critics tore it to shreds and the government banned it. The only version that was exported was severely cut.

This week the Continental is playing an uncut print of the film. By modern cinematic standards its shock value is considerably lessened from what it might have been more than two decades ago.

BUT IT IS obvious why France has been sensitive about Renoir's message. His is a work without pity, a scathing study of an amoral society and a work that would be particularly galling to that society because Renoir makes his denunciation with laughter.

The action takes place during a house party being given by a French aristocrat, whose role in life seems to be completely useless, and his Viennese wife.

Other characters are the aristocrat's mistress, his wife's would-be lover, a friend of the family who is secretly in love with the wife and an assortment of hangers-on.

The triangle is paralleled lower down on the social ladder by the aristocrat's gamekeeper, his wife and a poacher who has been hired as a servant.

IN THE SOCIETY Renoir pictures there is no censure of such hanky panky if it is carried out according to certain rules: There should be an air of intrigue and sophistication; what others know and think of the escapade is not important; cheat, but don't get caught by your spouse.

But the wife's would-be lover, an aviation hero, is not a member of this class. He is straightforward after his fashion and his actions upset the status quo.

Renoir tells his story with wry humor that breaks into sheer slapstick during the film's climax. He closes with an ironic ending that is jolting.

Though it concerns a thoroughly amoral group, it is a very moral tale.