Staging in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game

A biting satire of haute-bourgeois French society, Jean Renoir’s 1939 The Rules of the Game is beloved for the intricacy of its construction and the mixture of tenderness and irony with which it views its characters. Set just before the start of World War II, the film chronicles the complicated web of conflicts and romances that emerge when a group of upper-class acquaintances gather for a weekend at a French château. The latest episode of Observations on Film Art, an exclusive Criterion Channel program that explores elements of cinema as used by great auteurs, features professor Kristin Thompson highlighting one device that has earned the film its permanent spot in the cinematic canon: Renoir’s characteristically subtle yet elaborate staging. In the clip below, she discusses how the director’s mise-en-scène imbues this tragicomedy with a vivid sense of realism.

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