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La Règle du jeu (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Jean Renoir‘s La Règle du jeu (“The Rules of the Game”) has gained the stature of being one of the greatest films ever made, despite the lukewarm – or in some cases downright hostile – reception it received upon its first release. Released in 1939, the film is a comedy of manners that lambastes the bourgeoisie and shows the clashes between the classes and how readily societal norms and manners can break down.

The main focus is on the taboo romance between aristocrats and the poorer classes. André Jurieu (Roland Toutain) is an aviation hero who has just completed a record-making trans-Atlantic flight. He has fallen in love with Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor), who is married to wealthy aristocrat Marquis Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio). Feeling distraught that Christine, who encouraged him to make the flight, did not show up to greet him at his landing, Jurieu announces to the public over the radio that he did not make the flight for the glory of the French people but to impress a woman.

Robert, who is aware of Christine’s romantic entanglement with André and is outwardly fine with it, is really quite jealous, despite having a mistress of his own. Robert invites his mistress to his home for a weekend hunting party, along with Octave (Jean Renoir), and Octave brings his friend André Jurieu. As André tries to convince Christine to leave Robert, Robert is seducing his mistress. Meanwhile, amongst the “help,” a newly hired poacher sets his sights on the attractive young wife of Robert’s gamekeeper, setting off a game of cat and mouse when the gamekeeper realizes his wife is being unfaithful.

The shocking immorality when it comes to fidelity among the parties involved in this film may have been the undoing of the film with the mores of the time. However, in retrospect, La Règle du jeu is far from amoral. It is a sharp and witty look at the hypocrisy of the ruling classes who pontificate on the politics of civility but allow the civility to quickly degrade. One can draw a direct line from this film to a film like The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in its absurdity if not in the latter’s circular plot and

  • La Règle du jeu (1939)
  • La Règle du jeu (1939)
  • La Règle du jeu (1939)
  • Paulette Dubost and Nora Gregor in The Rules of the Game (1939)
  • La Règle du jeu (1939)
  • La Règle du jeu Blu-ray (BFI)
  • La Règle du jeu Blu-ray (BFI)
  • La Règle du jeu Blu-ray (BFI)

The Video

“The original negative having been destroyed by Allied bombing during the Second World War, this digital restoration builds upon the meticulous reconstruction carried out by Les Grands Films Classiques and approved by Jean Renoir in 1959. The 4K restoration was conducted at Hiventy Labs from a nitrate-based 35mm element held at CNC.”

This 1.37:1 AVC 1080p encodement of La Règle du jeu from the 35mm nitrates looks about as good as it can get, given the provenance of this film. This will never look as crisp, have the sort of clarity or depth of field one could expect to see in a film restored from a well-kept camera negative, but the image looks natural and still yields a decent amount of detail and texture. The background detail does trail off a bit, but this is still satisfying given the circumstances.

The Audio

Cinévolution restored the sound from a 35mm magnetic sound element and an incomplete nitrate print held at FEMIS. The mono track is provided in LPCM 2.0. There is very limited dynamic range and a bit of a veil over the sound. Overall mastering levels are low, requiring me to bump up the sound 9-10db over normal listening levels. That said, this is again, better than it could have been and is free from loud pops or hiss.

The Supplements

The BFI does their usual due diligence when it comes to gathering bonus features for this release, including a new audio commentary and gathering classic short films that expand on the themes seen in the film, such as the 1921 newsreel showing Lord and Lady Savile’s shooting party on the moors.

  • Newly commissioned commentary by film writers David Jenkins and Trevor Johnston. Recorded in 2023.
  • Image par Image – ‘La Règle du jeu (1939, Jean Renoir)’ (SD/PAL; 00:42:34) – Jean Douchet and Pierre Oscar Lévy provide detailed analysis of La Règle du jeu in this 1987 documentary.
  • Leslie Caron on La Règle du jeu (1080i/50; 00:17:40) – Actress Leslie Caron introduces La Règle du jeu as part of the Screen Epiphanies series at BFI Southbank on 26th July 2016 in London, England.
  • Stills Gallery (1080p)
  • La Vie est à nous (1080p; 01:04:13) – Produced by the French Communist Party for the 1936 election, this documentary uses newsreel footage and sketches to depict the political turmoil, the threat of fascism, and the embedded class structures of 1930s France. Collectively-made, some of the creatives involved in the project include Jean Renoir, Jean-Paul Dreyfus (Le Chanois), Jacques Becker, Pierre Unik, André Zwoboda, Jacques B. Brunius, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marc Maurette, Maurice Lime.
  • Pheasant Shooting (1080p; 00:01:10) – The pheasant’s summer holiday draws to a close as shooting season begins on this Norfolk game reserve. A Topical Budget newsreel from 1913.
  • Society on the Moors (1080p; 00:01:17) – This 1921 newsreel from Topical Budget shows Lord and Lady Savile’s shooting party on the moors near Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire.
  • Illustrated booklet with a new essay by David Thompson and an essay by Ginette Vincendeau originally published in Sight and Sound; notes on the special features and credits. (First Pressing Only)

The Final Assessment

The Rules of the Game is a film that should be viewed by all cineastes, even as its shock value has worn off over the decades. It is a cleverly crafted and exceptionally filmed exposé on the hypocrisy of society. The BFI has provided a very feature-rich and satisfying Blu-ray release of this film’s 4K restoration.


La Règle du jeu is out on Blu-ray in the UK May 29, 2023, from the BFI.


  • Rating Certificate: UK: PG
  • Studios & Distributors: Nouvelles Éditions de Films (NEF) | BFI
  • Director: Jean Renoir
  • Written By: Jean Renoir | Carl Koch | Beaumarchais
  • Run Time: 107 Mins.
  • Street Date: 29 May 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English
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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu ("The Rules of the Game") has gained the stature of being one of the greatest films ever made, despite the lukewarm – or in some cases downright hostile – reception it received upon...La Règle du jeu (Blu-ray Review)