“The Rules of the Game,” (“La Règle du Jeu”) (1939), is another classic drama of the French cinema, black and white, filmed between World Wars I and II by the famed French director Jean Renoir (GRAND ILLUSION; PORT OF SHADOWS). It doesn’t paint a very flattering portrait of the French society of the time, nor give a very encouraging forecast as to how well the country, ruled by such an aristocracy, will do when Germany attacks, an event that was very close, and, in 1939, already casting a very long shadow to anyone with eyes to see. Presumably for these reasons, it met quite a hostile response at its French debut, and Renoir cut it to shreds trying to make it more acceptable to the public. Only with the end of World War II, and the passage of time, did scholars begin to think more kindly of it; it was eventually restored, as best it could be, by a pair of French film scholars. Renoir, of course, was the son of world-famous, greatly loved Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir, and there’s hardly ever a scene in a picture of his that isn’t beautifully shot. “RULES,” which I would describe as a drawing room comedy/drama, has its full share of them. Renoir was also, however, a Communist, who loathed France’s class- ridden society of the time, and those negative feelings probably have the greatest influence upon this film. It centers upon a bed hopping weekend at the sprawling estate of the affluent Marquis Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio— the great friend of Jean Gabin’s character in GRAND ILLUSION, and the croupier in CASABLANCA). He hosts a shooting party at his property at a time when emotions are running high among his set. Guests include Robert's mistress Genevieve (Mila Parely), and celebrity pilot Andre Jurieu (Roland Toutain) -- he has just made himself a national hero by single-handedly flying the Atlantic—but then made himself a national laughingstock by complaining, in the airport radio interview, that Robert’s wife Christine, whom he fancies, hadn’t met him there to congratulate him. Robert's wife, the Austrian Christine (Nora Gregor), is, of course, at the chateau as well. Her college student niece Jacky, who has a crush on the pilot, is there, as is Octave, an old friend of the family’s, who is actually played by Jean Renoir himself. At the same time, the Alsatian gamekeeper Schumacher (Gaston Modot) is trying to keep the local poacher Marceau, newly hired as a servant (played by the well- known comic actor Julien Carette) from hitting on his lovely, lively wife Lisette, (Paulette Dubost). Lisette is Christine’s personal maid, who prefers to live with her in Paris, while Schumacher is stuck out in the country. Needless to say, the servants, and other guests, watch all this with great glee. Photography of the approaching chateau is Renoir-beautiful, and within the chateau, he gives us some deep focus shots of which other directors can only dream. His screen play is never less than witty, somewhat romantic, and quite well-acted, by himself, as well. I am not, and have never been, an official film student, so am not equipped to discuss this movie technically, nor to enter the heated argument as to where it belongs in the pantheon of classic French films. I had a couple of problems with the film. The shooting scene, while beautifully photographed, giving us peasant beaters wearing their traditional smocks, sure goes on a long time. And sure shows a lot of deaths: some critics theorize that it’s meant to hint at the coming human bloodbath. And, furthermore, I have lived in the English countryside, among people who shoot, and they wouldn’t have dreamt of wasting ammunition on rabbits. That’s why they kept ferrets. As, in fact, the gamekeeper Schumacher mentions his keeping ferrets for the killing of the rabbits. So why were these people shooting rabbits? The Marquis’s wife Christine also presented me with problems. She is a beautiful, born socialite, the daughter of an Austrian conductor, and would have to be, I guess, described as a “femme fatale.” Apparently, she has based her life on the principle of Steven Stills’ 1970 folkish song, “Love the One You’re With.” She seems to be ready to run off, every ten minutes or so, with one character or another, and both her husband and maid, who presumably know her best, point out that none of them have sufficient wealth to keep her. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but what do I know about the between the wars French femmes fatale? The film’s ending also didn’t make too much sense to me, yet it’s obvious that it’s the ending Renoir wanted. He really had to pull a couple of rabbits out of his hat to get there, and I’m not sure why he bothered. Perhaps to illustrate the harsher effects of the rules of the game, society’s rules at the time. In any event, I did not find “THE RULES,” to be on a par with Renoir’s greatest work. But it can be beautiful.