Monday, November 13, 2006
just saw "Rules of the Game" at Film Forum. it sounds stupid to say, but i'm proud of myself for going. i'd been meaning to see the damn thing for weeks. sometimes it's so hard to actually get your ass in gear to go see a movie in the theater, let alone an OLD, FRENCH one.
but no, actually it was pretty light and enjoyable all the way through. i feel like it belongs to this lineage of books, movies, plays, etc. about urban rich people isolated in a country house. obviously "Gosford Park" comes to mind, but even something like "The Big Chill" seems to qualify. maybe parts of "Gatsby" as well? i know there are better examples, but they aren't coming to me at the moment.
anyway, the thing about focusing on aristocratic folks like Renoir does is that you get that amazing dichotomy of the masters and the servants, where there's all this intrigue going on in the "upper chambers" and parallel stuff going on down below. and then all the servants are obviously always gossiping about what their masters are up to. "Gosford" park handled that whole thing really well, and if i'm remembering correctly, there was even some hanky-panky going on between the upper and lower sectors that didn't really happen in this movie. the people pretty much stuck to their own caste.
the best thing about "Rules" to me was how Renoir captured the whole vibe of the idle rich, just their extremely weary and indulged viewpoint. like the famous pilot in the movie just can't fit in b/c he's too much of a dreamer; he takes his emotions too seriously. the characters who succeed are the ones, like the servant Lisette and for the most part Octave, who care the least, who have the least at stake. i guess the main rule of the game is that you really can't try at all.
my favorite parts of the movie--as i'm sure is the case with most modern viewers--were these long farcical set pieces in the middle, where everyone is sneaking around with their respective lover and hiding away and not doing a very good job of it. there's just a real sense of aburdity as two of the characters are fist-fighting over one woman and then two others are having an indoor gunfight over another. the line that sums it all up is when the man of the house says to the head butler, "Do something about this farce!" and the butler's like, "Which one?"
the ending was a little much, but all the intrigue is a whole lot of fun. it makes me wish i knew more about American screwball comedies, b/c i feel like those would offer all that farcical mayhem without any pretense of heaviness. anyone have any recommendations?
ps-the characters pictured above are maybe my favorite: Lisette, the adorable maidservant, and Marceau, the poacher-turned-housedude who becomes her lover. they partake of some cutesy flirtation that's a joy to watch.