In a season with two major works – Hugo and The Artist – devoted to movie-love, Criterion has just the film to extend that passion: Jean Renoir’s unsurpassed The Rules of the Game, with its upstairs-downstairs tale of love and infidelity at a country house, where the bourgeoisie hunt as World War II looms.
Released in that glittery movie year of 1939 (along with Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz), The Rules of the Game was received as such a disaster that Renoir made major cuts. A 2004 Criterion release featured a restored version, but this new iteration, on DVD and Blu-Ray, is cleaner.
The wonderful features include Renoir’s video introduction from the 1960’s, explaining his inspiration from Beaumarchais and Moliere, and his dismay at the catcalls when the film premiered. And in a half-hour, 1966 television program, Renoir is interviewed by Jacques Rivette.
But best of all there is the film, a supremely witty and sad meditation on love and class, starring Renoir himself, with one of the wisest lines in movie history: “The terrible thing is, everyone has their reasons.”