(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
One of Citizen Kane’s few equals, Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game is a gorgeous, gracefully astute critique of pre-WWII French aristocracy. Renoir, using luscious deep-focus cinematography reminiscent of Welles’ classic, details the facetious games of love played by both the upstairs (i.e. rich) and downstairs (i.e. servants) guests at a country manor party. A masterful rabbit-hunting scene symbolizes the nobility’s savage superficiality, yet Renoir’s even-handed characterizations manage to elicit both empathy and disgust. These snobbish fools believe they know the rules of the game, but one gets the sense that they’re not exactly sure what game it is they’re playing.