Rules of the Game

  • Directed by Jean Renoir
  • France, 1939, 106 mins., French

Although it was met with diverse responses when it was released, few films have earned such universal critical acclaim as Renoir’s masterpiece. The “game” is life: Renoir and cinematographer Henri Cartier-Bresson paint a broad canvas, taking as their subject the foibles of bourgeois French society. At a weekend hunting party on the eve of World War II, amorous escapades abound among the aristocratic guests and the servants in a Gallic “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The refusal of one guest to play by society’s rules sparks a chain of events that ends in tragedy, providing, in Renoir’s words, a “dramatic fantasy” of a “a rich, complex society. . . dancing on a volcano.”

Genres: Drama

Other Films by Jean Renoir

The River

Renoir’s film, late in his filmmaking career, sees the master working in color for the first time. The story follows a well-to-do British family living on the banks of the Ganges River. Teenager Harriet (Patricia Walters) and her sisters are brought up in an environment that melds the philosophies of East and West in equal

The Grand Illusion

A humanistic, sensitive masterpiece nearly unparalleled in cinema history, Renoir’s WWI drama concerns the trials and tribulations of a group of French POWs under German imprisonment. Most of the group are working-class, led by Lieutenant Maréchal (an unforgettable Jean Gabin); they scheme and plot—sometimes to the point of revolt—to escape the prison camp, meanwhile reveling