I’m clueless about the greatness of The Rules of the Game
I know there are many of you who have a lot more knowledge about the film medium than I have. Maybe you’ve attended some film classes where you’ve analyzed every single shot of the film I’m going to talk about. You might very well regard it as a revered deity in the temple of cinema, and who am I to come here and tell you anything else?
Everyone loves The Rules of the Game. Everyone but me. It ended up as #4 in the recent Sight & Sound poll. And over 800 critics can’t possibly be wrong. TSPDT puts it even slightly higher, at #3.
Just think of it! How many movies have been made since the birth of cinema? Thousands and thousands and yet thousands. And Rules of the Game is on third place! It should be a mighty good movie, shouldn’t it?
In case the aggregated critic lists hadn’t convinced me about its greatness, there were a ton of quotes by famous directors on the DVD cover who assured me that this was a film I really had to watch.
Bernardo Bertolucci claimed it was the best movie he’s ever seen. Truffaut said it’s “The bible for all true film lovers. This is the movie of movies”. Robert Altman had learned how to make film from it and Paul Schrader witnessed that it was “quick, spiritual, innovative and entertaining. For me there’s no better film”.
How sad, how embarrassing on my part that I couldn’t see what was so great or fun or entertaining.
I saw some upper class people assembling at a castle where they alternately go on rabbit hunts or pursuit their objects of desire of the opposite sex. Occasionally their servants did similar things, although they used traps instead of guns for killing the rabbits. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen, something dramatic. But when it finally did, it was quite anticlimactic.
Three thoughts crossed my mind as I watched it:
- The camerawork was odd with a lot of shots taken from a very low angle pointing up to the sky. If it was good or not I’m not I’m not sure, but it was noticeable.
- Everyone in aristocracy had plucked eyebrows. The women’s eyebrows were most extreme, but the men plucked their eyebrows too. Was it fashionable at that time?
- Back in the 30s people didn’t object to harsh treatment of animals in film recordings. Poor rabbits.
I didn’t laugh, I didn’t cry, I didn’t get pulled into the world of those people. It just didn’t grab me, despite the fact that I’m usually a sucker for movies about upper-class people moping around at castles, being miserable under the watching eyes of their servants.
I know this film comes with a story. Apparently it caused an outrage by the theatre audience, was later on stopped by the censorship and then banned by the nazi occupants of France. For years it was believed lost to the world until someone found a few hidden copies in the 50s, which were saved and restored.
But a good back story isn’t a guarantee for a good movie. There must be something about this film that I’m blind to – something that has charmed hundreds or even thousands of critics over the world.
If you’re one of the lovers of this movie, please help me out. Tell me what’s so great about it and help me open my eyes. I’d much rather be on the winning team, cheering for the success of a beloved film, than sitting in the corner of the clueless where I’m dwelling at the moment.
The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu, Jean Renoir, FR, 1939) My rating: 1,5/5