(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#6) The Rules of the Game
Comedy/Drama • dir. Jean Renoir • 1939 • France
I don’t know much about quantum physics. Scratch that. I don’t really know anything about quantum physics. And nor do I know a single specific thing about Einstein’s general theory of relativity. (For that matter, even as a resident of Princeton these days I haven’t yet succeeded in locating where Einstein used to live – for the last 22 years of his life as a naturalized US citizen and local scholar.) But they have something to do with time being kind of bendy, right? Likewise, with stuff being either much bigger or much smaller than you’d think. (I’m missing, I expect, a pertinent detail or two.) Here’s the thing, though: how about we apply quantum physics and relativity to film? Not me, obviously. Someone smarter.
A great many films are so very effortful to watch. In both meanings of the word, they can be dreadfully dense (yet also weirdly empty). They are too long. Longer, in fact, than nominal running times would suggest. For a much smaller number of films, however, the opposite applies. A special handful can have layers of complexity and nuance, and still, somehow, be feather light and quick. There’s no better example than Jean Renoir’s masterpiece The Rules of the Game. No matter how many times you watch it, it’s never the same film twice. It can be (and is) a social satire. It can be (and is) a penetrating insight into France’s decaying, pre-World War II class system. It can be (and is) a farce reminiscent of Molière, or a tragedy. You can watch it with a notepad and gainfully study its depiction of antisemitism, its gender- and geopolitics. Or, in film-studies mode, you can marvel at its dazzling mise-en-scene, deep-focus photography, and innovative use of music and sound. Or else – try this out for size – follow a different character every time, and see how a dozen wholly distinct and fully-rounded stories emerge. The Rules of the Game is more full of life than any one film has any right to be. It’s important. It’s massive. And – wow! – also romantic, fast, funny, and tremendously enjoyable. In other words: brilliantly bendy.