Director Jean Renoir / 1939 / France

La Regie Du Jeu has a strange history. Made under hazardous conditions prior to Renoir's departure for Hollywood, it met with a hostile reception at its Paris premiere in July, 1939, and was subsequently severely cut. In October of the same year, it was banned on the grounds that it was demoralising, and the ban was upheld during the war period. In 1956 two young French enthusiasts, under Renoir's personal supervision, began painstakingly to reconstruct the film. This present work is the complete version of the film and confirms what the English critic Gavin Lambert felt, that La Regie Du Jeu is probably Renoir's masterpiece. It is the story of a week-end spent in a country chateau by a party of lively, easy-going people. They are not vindictive or pathological — in fact, although not rich, they have elegance and charm — their "sin" is something much less obviously abnormal, it consists of having no values at all.

They fraternise with the servants to show that they are broadminded. During the week-end the party goes on a shoot — a remarkable sequence in which a refined brutality is conveyed by natural sound and images. A fancy-dress ball is held in which several people perform a dance of death with unconscious irony, all the time planning entertaining intrigues or some congenial adultery. Finally, genuine passions become too strong for the social facade and a woman's lover is fatally shot. In the early light of dawn, as the body is carried back into the house, Renoir gives the final turn of the screw — the guests are each convinced that their host has committed murder.

Although Renoir disclaimed any intention of presenting a social study, its moralistic power is undeniable. The many-sided intrigues are handled with skill, remarkable when one considers that there was no final script, each scene being filmed in its proper sequence. Despite some loose ends, there are at least two scenes — the shoot and the fancy-dress ball —which could be considered near perfect. The film is, in a certain sense, the pendant of La Grande Illusion. It portrays the ostrich attitude to the reality of a doomed society, whereas the earlier film confronts that reality.

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