Not an actor by trade, only one of the greatest directors, Renoir cast himself as the bearish, garrulous friend of the aviator hero in this magnificent 1939 fresco of the French leisure class gamboling in the shadow of imminent war. As aristocrats and servants flirt and hurt one another, Renoir stands slightly apart, smiling and pained, understanding the sadness of the maxim “Everyone has his own reasons.” Now here’s my reason or this choice: 30 years ago, Andrew Sarris, Richard Roud and I were chatting, and someone wondered which film character we thought best expressed our own temperaments. Simultaneously, each of us exclaimed, “Jean Renoir in The Rules of the Game!” Three film lovers saw themselves in the mirror of Renoir’s humane skepticism. ‘Nuff said.
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