• Every ten years since 1952, the world-renowned film magazine Sight & Sound has polled a wide international selection of film critics and directors on what they consider to be the ten greatest works of cinema ever made, and then compiled the results. The top fifty movies in the 2012 critics’ list, unveiled August 1, include twenty-five Criterion titles. In this series, we highlight those classic films.

    The Rules of the Game has become so influential that its title has taken on an extra layer of meaning: with this work, Jean Renoir put in place standards for modern cinema itself. Made in 1939, as the advent of World War II was becoming more and more a reality, it is an angry film, one that Renoir later said was about a “society dancing on a volcano.” That society is represented by a stately château, where elite members of the haute bourgeoisie have assembled for a shooting party; over the course of the weekend, the ugliness of their natures is revealed. The milieu was dramatically different from those of this politically minded filmmaker’s previous works, which were often defiantly working-class. Audiences didn’t know what to make of The Rules of the Game, and its hostile reception (which led to its being reedited to a considerably shorter length and then pulled from theaters) is one of the greatest stories in film history. Who better to recall it than Renoir himself, who does so in this clip from his 1961 introduction to the film?

    “Everyone has their reasons,” goes the famous quote from the film, delivered by a character played by the director himself; likewise, everyone has their favorite scene from The Rules of the Game. While the rabbit and bird hunt is a tour de force of editing, composition, and rhythm, we’re particularly fond of the sinister danse macabre, in which a living-room skeleton and ghost performance provides a metaphorical backdrop for all sorts of shady goings-on.

8 comments

  • By Criteriophile
    October 19, 2012
    05:59 AM

    A sublime introduction by Renoir. I plan on buying the Blu-Ray during the upcoming Barnes and Noble sale. I am assuming that the entire introduction is included with the disc's supplements.
    Reply
  • By Russell Fry
    October 19, 2012
    10:11 AM

    I would love to see Robert Altman's 'Gosford Park' given the Criterion treatment that is certainly deserves. It is a perfect companion piece to 'Rules of the Game,' my all time favorite Renoir. I can't seem to watch one without immediately watching the other.
    Reply
  • By Batzomon
    October 19, 2012
    03:57 PM

    I just bought it on Blu-ray but have yet to find the time to gobble the entire film and extras in one sitting. So I'm guessing I'll need at least 20 hours, yes?
    Reply
  • By Andrew
    October 20, 2012
    09:19 AM

    @Criteriophile Yes, I have the new Criterion DVD of this film and the whole introduction is there. There are lots of other extras, too.
    Reply
  • By Samantha Travis
    October 23, 2012
    06:18 PM

    The Rules of the Game certainly was one of the best films of the 20th century. I know it gets a considerable amount of attention with the cinema polls and all, but I was still delighted when I saw this posting on the homepage. The extras that come with this criterion DVD/blu-ray are definitely worth watching.
    Reply
  • By Tracey McDonald
    June 22, 2013
    01:58 AM

    I love Renoir!! seemless, perfect vision of humanity
    Reply
  • By Barry Moore
    July 15, 2013
    10:56 AM

    'The Rules of the Game' is an interesting example of a film I agree to be a masterpiece, but for which I have no affection. It is far from being a favorite movie of mine, and yet I could not quarrel with anyone describing it as essential viewing.
    Reply
  • By Michael
    July 13, 2014
    12:43 AM

    Whenever I am asked that ridiculous question, "What is the best film you have ever seen?" I invariably answer "Jean Renoir's 'Rules of the Game.'" And I dare anyone to top it.
    Reply

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