Sunday, January 18, 2004

Terrence Rafferty writes with typical eloquence on Jean Renoir's masterpiece The Rules of the Game, specifically the new DVD -- which I suddenly want want WANT -- in today's Times: "`The Rules of the Game,' improbably, retains even in this mechanical form its stubborn unfamiliarity, its mysterious poise as it contemplates the end of something and the beginning of something else, and its generosity in allowing us to share with its characters the pleasures and the terrors of freedom."

Whenever I'm asked to name my favorite films, my choices sound horribly staid and ordinary and quite boring: Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Renoir's one usually vying for top place. I always sounded like I consulted the latest Sight and Sound poll and just want to sound smart. But the truth is I love all these filoms -- and this one, God, it's just so special, special in the way few films are, films that aren't about technical mastery at all -- although this certainly one had it -- but about richness, story, character, meaning, depth; films that are purely cinematic and purely artistic at the same time. Rules of the Game is the kind of film that says: a kiss, a broken heart, passion, human life in general -- in all of its joy and horror -- is more worthy of enshrinement on celluloid than disasters or killings. That sounds terrible bland (I'm writing in a hurry!) but it's true: it's a very fine, very artistic and very piercing slice of a certain kind of life, and every time I watch it, watch the story unfold in all of its madness, the only thing I can think is that this is what cinema really is all about, and so few ever understood it quite the way Renoir did. (Bunuel is another.)

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