Was Le Grande Jean too soft on the aristos?
When I first saw Renoir’s Rules of the Game at age 18, I was completely bowled over. I couldn’t imagine that a film could contain so much richness. Viewing it more than 40 years later, I’m surprised to discover how much there is that I don’t like. The perfect depth of the film — the complete realization of its every detail — which is what impressed me the most the first time around, and which distinguished it in my mind from all of its competitors — mostly Renoir’s own Grand Illusion and Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise1 — just isn’t there, at least, not the way I remembered it. So what happened?
The film begins with lines from Beaumarchais’ Le Mariage de Figaro — “If Cupid was not meant to flitter, why was he given wings?” After this classic beginning, we shift abruptly to the modern day at Le Bourget Airport where André Jurieu (Roland Toutain ), a heroic aviator, is landing after a transatlantic flight. Since this is happening in 1939, more than ten years after Charles Lindbergh did it for the first time, one can criticize Renoir for a certain lack of imagination. Why not around the world, eh?
Once his Caudron rolls to a halt, André staggers from the cockpit. “Is she here?” he demands of the rotund Octave (Renoir himself). Eh? Christine? No, mon ami. She didn’t make it. An eager reporter shoves a microphone in front of André’s face. “I’ve never been so unhappy in my life. I made this flight for a woman and she’s not here to welcome me,” he tells France, his soul in anguish.
Renoir cuts to the ten people in the hexagon2 who know what the hell André is talking about, most notably, Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor3 ), who’s a bit embarrassed to hear about her private life over the radio. Poor André! He takes things so seriously! She switches off the radio and engages her charming maid Lisette (Paulette Dubost) in conversation. The topic? Les hommes,4 naturellement. As a Frenchwoman, Lisette knows how they have to be handled. One must have a husband — they are necessary — but they must not be allowed to intrude on one’s privacy. Her husband, for example — Schumacher, the gamekeeper at the de la Chesnaye chateau — that’s the perfect place for him! He’s a rural fellow, an earnest, clumsy Alsatian with big boots. He’s there, and Lisette is here, so that she can serve madame!
There’s a fairly chi-chi bit when Lisette, slightly irritated at madame’s questions about her lovers, pretends not to know where madame’s evening lipstick is, but madame, great lady that she is, is not one to be bullied by a servant, even one so delightful as Lisette, and corrects her gently.5 And, of course, Lisette is truly devoted to madame. Her place is with her.
Christine’s husband Robert (Marcel Dalio) is also listening to the radio. A passionate collector of antique musical toys, he is not upset for himself, of course, but he worries about his poor wife. She is so sensitive about these things! And so, because he has nothing to fear,6 he asks her about her involvement with André as they head out for the evening. It is, fortunately, nothing! Nothing at all! She has always been faithful to him! To Robert, that is!
Robert is so touched by her expressions of devotion that he acts spontaneously, a dangerous act for anyone, particularly a Frenchman. He calls his mistress Geneviève (Mila Parely) and announces that they must see each other, tomorrow! Geneviève isn’t amused. A lover who must have you, that’s one thing. A lover who must talk to you, that’s another. She smells that grossest of gaucheries, sincerity. Honest emotion! Really, what could be worse?
To calm her nerves, Geneviève rejoins her chums, their nostrils sniffing eagerly for the slightest scent of discord. One of them, M. de St. Aubin (Pierre Nay), helpfully fills us in with a little backstory concerning Christine. She’s a charming girl, really, almost a child, really, from Vienna, far from her family, all alone in wicked, wicked Paris (well, sort of) where no one speaks her language (though she speaks French perfectly7 ). “You only say that because you’ve got a crush on her,” snickers a guest. “Not at all,” St. Aubin replies, gallantly. Geneviève, a bit put out at hearing so much praise heaped upon her lover’s wife, conceals her discomfort with a bon mot from Chamfort: “Love as it exists in society is merely the mingling of two whims and the contact of two skins.”8
And so the gossip spreads, like ripples from a rock tossed in a pond, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes malicious. Poor Christine! Poor André! Ah, the pleasures we take from the sufferings of others. We are wicked, aren’t we!
The next day Robert has a painful confrontation with Geneviève, played out amidst her splendid collection of Oriental art. His wife has committed the most unforgivable of sins — fidelity. As a consequence, he must be faithful to her. Hideous, yes — even inhuman, perhaps — but there it is. When honor commands, a gentleman obeys, regardless of his personal desires.
In fact, Robert’s conduct seems more driven by the plot than by any gentleman’s code. Geneviève was his mistress before he married Christine, and he didn’t bother to break off their affair afterwards, so he’s never been faithful to his wife. Did he presume she was unfaithful from the get-go? That seems a bit too gallant.
Things are definitely getting a bit awkward when, fortunately, good manners and wit join forces to save the day. Robert may be leaving his mistress, but he isn’t going to be rude to her. He invites her to lunch and she replies “Wonderful! All this sentimental talk has made me famished!” How kindly le bon dieu treats us, putting even our follies to good use!
In this, as in many other scenes, Renoir surrounds his actors with a forest, almost a jungle, of elegant artifacts, an endless profusion of delights, everything in perfect, perfect taste, and shot in perfect, perfect black-and-white photography. Our possessions! Do we possess them, or do they possess us? Are we owners or objects ourselves?
We cut from all this uptown sophistication to a speeding car,9 which speeds right into a ditch. It’s André, again. Damn it, he can’t get Christine out of his mind! Octave tries to explain to him about these society dames. They have rules, see? It’s like a game to them. You have to play the game! But let me take care of it. Christine and I go way back, you see. Her father helped me when I was trying to make it as a composer. A great conductor! A great man! And now he’s not around to look out for his little girl, so I have to do it!
Octave’s dialogue is more than a bit on the nose here, and there’s a bit too much of it. It’s hard not to love Octave, a “useless man,” a failed artist, who has no life of his own, who loves everyone and busies himself endlessly trying to help his friends, but Renoir loves him too much. We do find it hard to direct ourselves. Why get off stage when there’s no one there to tell us to?
Octave, however, is a man on a mission. He calls on the de la Chesnayes early in the AM,10 so early that Christine and Robert haven’t even said good morning yet (they aren’t so bourgeois as to sleep together). Robert is, in fact, so much the gentleman that he doesn’t mind Octave getting into Christine’s boudoir ahead of him, and obligingly retires when Octave indicates a desire for a brief tête-à-tête with his favorite gal. A good husband is always jealous, but never a bore.
Renoir casts himself as a selfless Figaro here, a factotum, a go-between, a fixer, playing both ends against the middle, but always for others, never himself. Christine, you sweet kid! You don’t know it, but you led André on! This is Paris, not Vienna! You’re a great lady, not a 12-year-old girl! You can’t throw your arms around a Frenchman’s neck — not a poor kid from the provinces like André, certainly — with no consequences! The poor mouton’s fallen for you, hard, and it’s your job to let him down easy!
Sorry, but I’m getting confused here. I thought it was André who didn’t know the rules, not Christine. And in her boudoir scene she came across as far more the great lady than the unspoiled child. And gushing over an exquisite, high-born babe, so young, so lovely, so pure — too pure, really, for this wicked world, so well-born that there’s really no one with the sensitivity, savoir faire, and bankroll worthy of her — I’m sorry, but I don’t care for it.11
Christine, laying it on a bit thick herself — “if he crashes, they’ll blame me!” — agrees, if Octave can talk Robert into inviting André to the family chateau for a little shooting. Fortunately, Octave knows all the pressure points, and Robert himself is no slouch when it comes to the ways of the heart. If Christine really loves André, keeping her from him will only make her more determined. In any event, fires in the open always burn themselves out; it’s compression that leads to explosion!
Octave points out that Geneviève will be attending. She’s desperate for marriage, and what a catch André would make! “That’s too practical,” chuckles Robert. In real life, things don’t take care of themselves so neatly. But for Octave, this has been a real morning’s work! He demands two fried eggs, a big slice of ham, and a glass of white wine from Lisette. She’s delighted. M. Octave is himself again! Because, as Geneviève has already explained to us, as long as you’ve got your appetite, that’s what counts. The head, the heart, they’re important, but M. Estomac takes precedence over all.12
A pair of powerful, elegant motor cars deliver the de la Chesnayes and their servants to their elegant chateau. When they arrive, Robert13 acknowledges the ponderous Schumacher’s request that his wife actually be allowed to live with him, while Christine, ever the great lady, chats affectionately with a humble wood-cutter, asking about his wife. When the grand folks leave, Corneille, le majordome (Eddy Debray), gets down to business. Is the wood cut? Are the fireplaces stocked? All of them? Oui, M. Corneille. Oui, M. Corneille. Oui, M. Corneille.
Later, Robert, immaculate in gaiters,14 consults with Schumacher on the rabbit problem.15 Monsieur le marquis doesn’t want rabbits, and he doesn’t want fences. When Schumacher puts the strong-arm on Marceau (Julien Carette), a poacher, monsieur intervenes. “This fellow is doing what I want!” The whimsy of it all captures his fancy, and he can’t resist the temptation to make further sport of poor Schumacher, who never gets the joke. “During the war I had men shot for less,” the gamekeeper growls, leaving us to guess that during “the war” — World War I — as an Alsatian he fought on the side of Germany.16
While Schumacher chases rabbits, Robert and Marceau chat about “life,” very much in the manner of Christine and Lisette, earlier in the picture. If only one could simply accept life as this fellow does! Live in the moment! We’ll feel the grave’s chill embrace soon enough, eh, mon ami? There’s no romance in the clay! Better to rejoice in God’s own sunshine while we have the chance!17)
In the earlier scenes, Renoir used deep-focus shots to place his actors in the background, dwarfing them with the trappings of luxury in the foreground — glass crystal, or an elegant vase of lilies. Here he surrounds them with the sweet, sticky buds of spring, young oak trees bearing their garlands.18 Black-and-white photography limits the impact of the outdoor shots, but in these and other scenes he gives a glimpse of a natural world inhabited by birds, rabbits, and squirrels that would be so much better — would be perfect, actually — if only those spoiled, blundering humans would depart.
The next day, the guests arrive. Geneviève, elegant and silly, in a leopard-skin outfit,19 not quite able to keep a grip on her need for male attention, is followed by a couple of lumbering society dames, Madame de la Plante (Odette Talazac20) and Madame de la Bruyère (Claire Gérard), babbling of diets and fashion, as self-assured as they are brainless. Christine’s niece Jackie (Anne Mayen),21 the sole representative of the younger generation, is the precise opposite, painfully earnest. “What are you studying, Jackie?” “Pre-Columbian art.” “Oooh! Negroes!”
There are, of course, male guests in attendance as well, le général (Pierre Magnier) — for how can one have a country house without a general? — always in enormous good spirits, as well as “l’invité efféminé” (Roger Forster), also very useful, good for bridge and conversation, along with St. Aubin and a few others.
The banalities of this crew are worth a chuckle, but somehow we expect a little more from Renoir. Laughing at society airheads has been a staple, from William Congreve to Tyler Perry. Renoir scarcely gives us a wrinkle on a crew we’ve seen a thousand times before.
When André arrives, fashionably late, of course, but theatrically right on time, we do get some drama. After all the assembled ladies rush to be kissed by l’homme de la heure, Christine, both daring and naïve, seizes the occasion to preempt the gossips, announcing that she had a “small role” to play in André’s triumph. When he was planning his great flight, the young man came to visit her — “many times” — to sit at her feet and share his dreams. While she speaks, Robert and Octave fidget in the background, counterpoint to her fierce, ingenuous defiance of convention — Renoir’s now familiar deep focus allowing us to follow two stories at once, sometimes contrasting, sometimes complementing one another. Naturally, the guests chime in from time to time as well, allowing us to think evil of those who speak it.
Rather miraculously, Christine’s awkward little speech is a huge hit. It’s all so charming, although no one knows exactly why. But it certainly calls for a celebration. We’ll have a masquerade!22 We’ll put on a show!
After the swells sort things out, we get a glimpse of life below stairs. It looks awfully cozy, everyone seated at a long table, feasting on haute cuisine and looking forward to pheasant and terrine de lièvre.23 Naturally, they gossip about their employers. Corneille, the ultimate servant, refuses to speak ill of the ruling class. Lisette, neither inhibited nor censorious, chuckles gleefully over the frailties of madame.24 Well, why not enjoy one’s self, eh?
The only odd man out is poor Schumacher, who just doesn’t know how to keep it light. Snubbed by the marquis, he’s snubbed again by his wife, who naughtily encourages Marceau, the new hire, to sit by her. Later, when Schumacher proudly gives Lisette a new cloak, she coyly observes that it is not at all becoming. What do Alsatians know of fashion?
Amid the servants’ chatter we learn that monsieur le marquis has a skeleton in the closet — a Jewish grandfather. Yes, but give him a potato salad that isn’t worthy of his palate, and he’ll let you know about it! Now there’s a gentleman!
Robert’s Jewishness, or his semi-demi Jewishness, is a curious feature in The Rules of the Game. In part, it was probably an inside joke on Renoir’s part, because Marcel Dalio played “Lt. Rosenthal” in The Grand Illusion. But what is the point? Although the servants refer to him as a “yid,” none of his guests take the slightest exception to him, not even le général, and French generals, including De Gaulle, were never known for their philo-Semitism. Europeans had been bitching about the presence of Jews in “high society” for decades.25 Considering that Europe was being threatened by the most ferociously anti-Semitic regime in history at the time The Rules of the Game was made, one feels that Renoir should either have made more of Robert’s Jewishness or else excluded it entirely. As it is, Renoir seems to be saying that French servants will accept you as a Jew and a gentleman as long as you have la bonne bouche.26 It’s a bit lazy, and a bit cute.
At bedtime, the folks upstairs are still agog with excitement with their plans for a costume ball. Renoir shows them running up and down the halls like children, trying to act witty and charming, as good aristocrats should. While they kid and clown, the servants hurry silently back and forth on endless errands, correcting all the little messes their betters make. If they’re pretty young maids, they’re likely to collect a thump or two on the rump from M. Octave.27
Later, when they’re alone, Robert congratulates Christine on how well she handled André’s arrival, and how much he is in debt to her. She cleared the air beautifully, and showed the gossips that she wasn’t afraid of them, for the best of all possible reasons — she had nothing to hide! What a wonderful wife! How wonderful it is to have a wonderful wife, a wife, dare one say, worthy of one’s self!28
Robert always treats Christine with worshipful respect, both theatrical and distancing. He loves her, it seems, as long as she’s just beyond his reach. Although sometimes she, unattractively, seems to accept this as her due, she usually reacts with understandable confusion. If I’m so wonderful, why won’t you touch me? And so this understated crescendo of aristocratic self-congratulation doesn’t quite bring matters to a complete resolution — because life, alas, is never quite that perfect.
The next day, the guests get down to business, in one of the most affecting scenes in cinema. Gossip and flirtations are all very well, but there’s nothing that sets the soul at ease like a little killing. Dressed to the nines in the latest in bunny-killing fashion, the guests array themselves in a long line while the beaters methodically drive the game towards them, thumping trees with sticks and shouting.29 Renoir assembles a heartbreaking series of shots of rabbits, their tiny noses trembling, being forced from their hiding places by their oafish not to say monstrous human foes.30
As the poor bunnies reach the killing ground the elegant folk remorselessly blast away, even sweet little Jackie.31 Christine says she doesn’t care for hunting much, but that doesn’t keep her from pulling the trigger.32
When the guns finally stop, Renoir shows us the hunting field, littered with dead. Almost reminds one of Verdun!
Afterwards, the guests jest over the day’s sport, chuckling in particular over le général’s conte drolatique of a poor fellow who blew his leg off and died in 20 minutes! As they chatter, Geneviève and Robert slip away for a little heart to heart. Robert, who originally claimed to be dropping Geneviève because he had learned that Christine was being faithful to him, now shifts his ground not very kindly and says that he’s breaking things off because he’s bored with her. Geneviève, who hardly needs Chamfort to help her with the ways of the heart, says she can deal with hatred but not indifference. Renoir, who made Geneviève look shallow and desperate earlier, now turns on the sympathy, portraying Geneviève as a tragic, brooding beauty, a woman who has lost her man.33 He shows her in enormous close-up, with Robert fidgeting like a midget in the background. Once Geneviève has said her piece, the two start to return to the others, when Geneviève slips in a sinkhole. Robert, ever the gentleman, rushes to her assistance. Accident and good manners having brought them into physical contact, Geneviève demands, rather melodramatically, and rather conveniently, a passionate farewell kiss. It’s a bit absurd, a bit too much, but Robert, again, ever the gentleman, ultimately cannot decline. And, of course, Christine, innocently (of course), happens to be watching through a field glass.34 Well, what can she think?
Back at the chateau, the next morning, we learn what she thinks, at least we think we do, when she visits Geneviève for a little heart to heart. In perhaps the most “classic” scene in the film, wife and mistress chat affectionately about their man. Such a clumsy liar, but so sweet, really! If only he would stop smoking in bed! The sheets! Exactly!
It’s all so charming that it’s not until afterwards that we notice that the details don’t quite sum to a hundred. If Christine knows all and forgives all about Robert and Geneviève, why did she appear upset earlier when she saw them kissing? And why should Robert and Geneviève have to break things off, except that Robert, for some reason, has decided that he’s bored with her. That, incidentally, has nothing to do with reason why he originally broke things off with her — that he couldn’t cheat on Christine when he knew that she wasn’t cheating on him, even though he was cheating on her when they were married (because his affair with Geneviève began before he married Christine) when, presumably, Christine hadn’t yet had an opportunity to cheat on him (unless she’d been having an affair with someone else when they were married, and we haven’t been told that)? Oy, that French aristocracy! All honor and no sense!
Things get even more complicated, and more contradictory, in the massively extended amateur night/costume ball sequence that follows. Despite its excessive length, the beginning is a little rushed: we enter just as curtain is coming down on the main performance, starring Robert and Christine, along with Octave, dressed as a bear, along with St. Aubin35 and a few others — most definitely including Geneviève, dressed as a harem girl and acting out just a bit.
“We’re a hit!” exclaims Robert, as the crowd roars. Time for an encore!36 But Christine, after knocking us out with her sangfroid, is suddenly a desperate, tormented beauty, floridly self-destructive, without an ounce of irony, hurling herself into the opportunistic arms of St. Aubin.37 She races off with him while Robert, tied to his duties as a host, stays in place.38 The show must go on!
Octave, in his “friend of the family” role, chases after Christine. The poor child! She must be protected from herself! Along the way, in a protracted bit, he struggles to rid himself of his bear suit, but he can’t do it himself and no one will help him. Renoir won’t let it drop, which leads us to believe that it must be symbolic, but of what? One can imagine that Renoir is portraying Octave (and, perhaps, himself) as trapped in the role of a charming, harmless buffoon, adorable, sexless, always a friend, never a threat, which works pretty well, as long as you forget about the teeth and claws. Well, no metaphor is perfect.39
The tumult upstairs is mirrored by events below. Schumacher, discovering Marceau chasing his wife, quickly starts chasing him. When Marceau seeks to escape by joining the elegant crowd upstairs, Schumacher plows right after him, in an extended bit that grows too extended, too farcical, and too “laden.” It would work as comedy, but since Renoir has more than comedy on his mind, we can’t help wondering why Marceau, if he really wants to get away from Schumacher, doesn’t just get the hell out of the chateau instead of running back and forth in the same two or three rooms for two or three hours.
While Schumacher continues his mad pursuit, Renoir cuts back and forth between the chase and the on-stage frivolities,40 which include a skeleton dance with heavy danse macabre, Totentanz, Walpurgisnacht overtones. Robert, freeing himself from the stage, finds himself still encumbered, with a possibly tipsy Geneviève. Let’s run away together, mon cherí! Everyone’s doing it!
Robert, who would really like to catch up with his wife at this point, encounters Marceau instead, and the two men, both pursued by an unkind fate, enjoy a long, moody conservation on that most painful yet most inescapable of topics, les femmes. “If only I were a Muslim,” murmurs Robert, apparently forgetting that harem girl Geneviève is proving a bit of a handful. Imagine if you had two!
Bonding with Marceau, Robert tells Schumacher to remain below stairs. In the meantime, André, chasing Christine while being chased by Jackie, finally catches up with the putative lovers. St. Aubin, shocked at André’s lack of restraint, challenges him to a duel. As a man of action, André naturally finds that a bit thick, and the two manage a thoroughly French punch-out — right in front of the servants, no less — from which André emerges the victor. Jackie, horrified, collapses in a faint. In a classic bit, surely remembered by anyone who’s seen the film, Corneille snaps his fingers at a nearby footman and points to Jackie’s descending derrière. “Do your duty, man!”
Christine and André escape. Alone with him at last, Christine can now speak her mind, or rather her heart. Yes, she is in love with him! It isn’t innocence, it isn’t friendship, it’s passion! Take me away!
But André, all of a sudden, loses the impetuosity that’s been his trademark. There are rules, after all. One can’t simply run off with another fellow’s wife, one’s host least of all, without speaking to him first. These things must be done properly.Say what? Wasn’t the whole point about André that he was a kid from the sticks who thought with his heart, who didn’t know the rules, who didn’t know that there were any rules, who only knew that he loved Christine and must have her? Again, we feel that Renoir is jerking us around, and, in particular, that the evening’s festivities are endless because he wants them to be endless.
Renoir does jerk us around, to another high point of the film, showing us Robert returning to the stage (he seems to have forgotten about Christine, for some reason) to reveal the pièce de résistance of his collection, a veritable wall of music, with flashing lights, a pumping organ, and three pivoting figures. As he has done before, Renoir focuses his camera impassively on the cold, dead, doll-like faces. As the music roars, Robert trembles, overwhelmed by the uncontrollable device.
Below stairs, there’s more trouble. Poor Schumacher, goaded beyond endurance by catching Lisette with Marceau yet again, violates monsieur le marquis’ rules and pursues the poacher upstairs. In an elaborately and not too convincingly choreographed sequence, Marceau, Schumacher, and Lisette chase each other round and round, and ultimately lead Robert to André and Christine. Surprisingly, Robert decks André with a roundhouse right, but André, of course, isn’t a man to be taken out with one punch. As the two tussle, Renoir definitely has us wondering how he’s going to resolve this face-off. André isn’t going to beat up Robert, is he? That would be pretty awful. But is Robert going to beat up André? That wouldn’t be too believable.
Suddenly, Octave and Geneviève stumble in. Christine desperately grabs Octave by the hand, dragging him away from Geneviève and out a convenient door. Geneviève, left alone and not too happy at having to watch two men fight over a woman other than herself, collapses on a sofa and moans as books and bodies are thrown her way. Not my idea of a party at all!
On the other side of the door, Christine pours out her heart to Octave! He wants me to spend a month with his mother!41 You call that a Frenchman! Octave, as he has done so often before, starts to explain the facts of life to an unhappy friend. These aviators! These heroes! You don’t understand!
Before we get to hear too much about the life of a hero, Renoir cuts back to Robert and André, who are still fighting, and we do need to know how it comes out. In yet another too clever bit, Marceau comes flying back into the room,42 and this time Schumacher has his pistol out. Lisette grabs his arm but he manages to squeeze off a round. What was that? exclaims André. A bullet, says Robert. A bullet? André, not behaving much like a hero, seems to find that actual gunfire calls for a time out. Suddenly, he realizes that Christine has taken a powder. Why shouldn’t she leave? shouts Geneviève, rather aggressively assuming the voice of “woman.” Neither of you is any fun! She tries to mother Robert, who seems to be examining his belly in search of a bullet hole, but he’s not interested. In fact, he even yells at her, which is a bit rude.
Octave and Christine, meanwhile, are far, far away (this is a very large chateau). Their conversation has switched gears, somehow, and Octave is reminiscing about the good old days — before the War, surely — her father leading his beloved orchestra, when we were all one, when all was right with the world. He strides out onto a massive stone terrace, miming the great man raising his baton. That communion with the audience! That must have been a wonderful thing! And here I stand, mute and alone, no career, no audience, no anything!43 He sits sadly on the cold, stone steps and Christine joins him.
While they’re sitting, Marceau is still running. Schumacher lets fly with a few more rounds, without drawing blood. In a particularly overcute bit, Marceau takes refuge behind the bulk of one of the grande dames. Nobody but Lisette seems to object much to the occasional gunfire. The guests assume it must be part of the entertainment. They’d laugh, except that they can’t quite figure out what the joke is. Still, quite amusing, one must say!
As the host, Robert is less amused. Definitely, it hasn’t been a good night for him. The renewed gunfire encourages Geneviève to pitch another fit, and Robert and André must join forces to cope with her thrashing form. Furious, he tells Corneille, “put an end to this farce!”44) “Which one, monsieur le marquis?”
While Robert’s wall o’ music thunders away, the confused guests raise their hands in surrender to the baffled Schumacher. Corneille, accompanied by two goons, slips up behind the gamekeeper and, sacrificing his body, executes an awkward but effective leg tackle. Bravo, Corneille! Those childhood years spent on le terrain de football were not in vain!
Well, there are some things that just can’t be topped, and at this point the party starts to break up. Robert and André, a bit improbably, haggle over the number of sleeping pills needed to sedate Geneviève, who, of course, wants attention, not rest. She pitches yet another faint and Jackie, reappearing, joins her on the floor.45 Dames! You know, I bet they weren’t really feeling faint!
After bidding farewell to his guests, Robert must tend to business. Schumacher’s conduct has been inexcusable, and he must be discharged. He accepts his fate and asks Lisette to come with him, but, in front of the assembled staff, including Marceau, she refuses. Ah, poor fellow! To lose a position, that’s one thing, but to lose a wife!
Schumacher slinks off, and then Robert dismisses Marceau as well. With the staff taken care of, he can at last turn to matters between himself and André. The two trade elegant apologies. I was a buffoon! You were a gentleman! Mais non! Mais non!
At last, to the heart of the matter. I love Christine, Robert says. I love her so much that I insist that she must go with you. André is staggered by this unselfishness, but rises to the challenge and accepts the responsibility given him, not mentioning the fact that it isn’t at all clear that Christine is actually ready to run away with him. Robert goes on to make a few less than helpful comments, pointing out that Christine is used to a rather spectacular lifestyle. Living on love may be fun for a year, but after that? But at least she’s running off with someone from our set. This last comment doesn’t make much sense, because the whole “point” of André as a character is that he isn’t of their set, he isn’t a well-born Parisian sophisticate who’s spent his whole life being “amused.”
We return to Octave and Christine, still on the terrace, or at least still on a terrace. He’s pleading André’s case once more. These heroes! Up in the air they’re great, but on the ground they’re just kids! You’ve got to take care of them! As he talks, the lights in the room behind them come on, and Lisette emerges through the French doors. You are not mad at me, madame? I can stay? Of course you can, Lisette! It is not your fault if all men are mad!
After this outburst of the feudal spirit, Christine gets all bourgeois on her ass and demands to know if Lisette knew about Robert and Geneviève, as of course she did. “Why does everyone lie?” demands poor Christine, in some seriously on-the-nose dialogue.
It gets worse. “Everyone lies these days,” says Octave. “Governments, the media. Why should we be any different?”
Hmmm. So before WWI there was no adultery, no deceit? Excuse me, exactly what country are we in? Didn’t France invent adultery?
Lisette cannot comfort madame’s spirit, but she can warm her body. You’re trembling, madame! My cloak! You must take it!
We cut to poor Marceau, exiting the chateau over the bridge that spans the surrounding moat. He discovers poor Schumacher, staring into the moat, his face wet with tears.46 Life without Lisette! Who can bear it? Marceau starts to slip by but then takes pity on the poor fellow and approaches him, though the gamekeeper scarcely notices. The chaser and the chased, united in sorrow, echoing Robert and André, give up the pursuit. Why should we pursue each other, mon ami, mon semblable, mon frère? This life is a sad thing!
We cut again, to Octave and Christine, pausing in the middle of the bridge that Marceau just crossed. Octave’s depression, which had disappeared a moment ago, returns, and he broods over his misspent life. He missed the gold ring, and now he’s gotten old. If it wasn’t for a few friends generous with their cash, he’d be up against it. Christine comforts him, and, in a contrived bit that’s almost a parody of comic opera, she puts on the hood of Lisette’s cloak against the cold, so they can continue their walk.
Schumacher and Marceau spot Christine and Octave, headed for the greenhouse. Anywhere but the chateau! exclaims Christine. Naturally, they assume that Christine is Lisette. That little tart! Off with Octave,47 one of the guests! She’s trading up! They creep closer, but now that Christine and Octave are inside the greenhouse, they can’t hear the voices. (Clever!).
Schumacher exhausted all his ammo in his pursuit of Marceau. Get your shotgun, Marceau suggests, I’ll stay here and watch them! No, no, says Schumacher, you come with me. From now on, we stick together.
Inside the greenhouse, Christine tries to comfort Octave. He’s not a failure. He just needs someone to take care of him. He needs her to take care of him, and she needs him, because she loves him. All at once, they pour out their love for one another. Our lives have been shams! We’ve loved each other ever since we were children, and we’ve been hiding from our love ever since! We can go back! We can have it all!
Octave is beside himself with excitement, but still there’s that damn chill in the air. Christine can’t run off without a decent coat.48 She must stay in the greenhouse where it’s warm while he gets her wrap. Octave rushes off. For the first time in his life he is going to act! This time, he will be the star! But then, as so often happens in this film, nay, as always happens, mere speech intervenes, and the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought. Lisette, catching up with him, reminds him not simply of the rules of the game but the realities of life. Fun is always very well, but like should mate with like. He’s too old for her, and, besides, madame is used to the best, the very best.
Octave brushes her off. She’s only a servant, after all. What does she understand of the higher things? But then he runs into André. Instantly, he slides back into character. He is a go-between, a best friend, an observer. André is the man for Christine. He gives him Christine’s coat. Go to the woman you love!
André races off. Of course, Schumacher and Marceau have returned. There is a shotgun blast, but it is André, not Christine, who tumbles, and it was Christine’s death that we really feared. Opportunely for the plot, Jackie is awakened by the sound. A shattered Marceau enters to bring the bad news. Mournfully, Octave accompanies Marceau outside. “Your friend didn’t suffer,” Marceau says. When Lisette catches up with them, Octave tells her to give Christine a kiss goodbye. He’s leaving. He’s looked his life in the face a little too closely tonight, and now he can’t stay among his fine friends any more.
Lisette accepts his farewell, but she doesn’t have time to tarry. “Corneille, they need us!” she cries, in the pivotal line of the whole film. These stupid, blundering aristocrats! They can’t even dress themselves! They need us! They need us! And because they need us, we have purpose! We sustain civilization, even while they try to kick it away!
Octave and Marceau, poor outcasts with no role to play in the drama, are left alone. I’ll go back to my cabin, says Marceau. Paris for me, says Octave. I’ll see what I can turn my hand to. Maybe we’ll meet again, says Marceau. Probably not, says Octave, apparently unenthused at the prospect of a reunion. But then, who knows! Hope costs nothing, and even a poor man can afford it!
Lisette and Christine lead a shattered Jackie away from the body. She is trembling violently, almost in convulsions. “Please!” says Lisette. “An educated young woman like yourself must show self-discipline!”49 “People are watching!” says Christine, adding the ultimate reminder.
Ah, those poor, noble aristocrats! They sacrifice every personal feeling for form! What class! What style!
As the ladies retire, Robert, taking charge as host once more, quickly contrives the appropriate cover story. It was all a tragic accident, he says. In an honest error, the gamekeeper shot André, mistaking him for a poacher. Let us retire, and tomorrow we will mourn properly the loss of our noble friend.
“A new definition of ‘accident,'” chuckles St. Aubin, sporting bandages on his face in commemoration of his encounter with the fallen André. Not a bit of it, cries le général. Our host is a man of the old school! There are so few left!
The moral center of Rules of the Game should be Christine. The men in the film treat her with a combination of pity and worship: Such a rare creature! And so sad! Cut off from her language, her culture! Yet to a Frenchman, a well-born Austrian lady in Paris can suggest only one person, “the Austrian Bitch,”50 Marie Antoinette, and Renoir works hard to hammer this point home. Early in the film, when Christine rather implausibly imagines to Octave that she will be blamed if André crashes, she says “They will call me ‘the foreigner,'” exactly what was said of Marie. Geneviève calls Christine “your Austrian shepherdess,” an explicit reference to Marie’s most notorious act of role-playing, and at the costume ball Christine appears as a shepherdess, with daisies in her hair, a further symbol of innocence — though in Christine’s case the innocence is not an act.
One thing poor Marie was never accused of was gravity, yet Renoir encourages us to see Christine as the only “serious” character — she wants to be a friend, a true friend, to André rather than engage in a fashionable sexual charade, More than that, she wants to have children. In Christine’s case, the innocence is real, innocence made desperate in a false and artificial world. But a woman who throws herself at three men in one night, is she desperate or just a drama queen?
In fairness to Christine — if one can worry about being “fair” to a fictional character — her inconsistencies are really the responsibility of her creator. As an artist, Renoir needs to surprise his audience and to maintain tension until he reaches his climax. More particularly, he wants to recreate the frenetic reversals and re-reversals of his model, Beaumarchais’ Le Mariage de Figaro, known in the U.S. almost entirely through the Mozart/Da Ponte opera, which follows Beaumarchais’ plot with great precision.51 Renoir, however, wants to one-up Beaumarchais by blending farce with tragedy: this brimming, brilliant society is headed for a smash.
Renoir’s ambition gave him problems he did not solve. In the Mariage, all the confusion comes from plots, tricks, and misunderstanding. We know, if Figaro does not, that Suzanne will be faithful to him, that the Count will be thwarted, and that virtue will be rewarded, at least for the time being.52 Renoir can’t use this sort of comic deceit, with the result that a lot of the reversals — Christine first amused by Robert’s infidelity and then desperately wounded by it, André’s passion transformed into pedantic caution once it can actually be realized — surprise us but don’t convince us.
If Christine is Marie Antoinette, then Robert must be Louis XVI,53 and Renoir certainly encourages this line of thinking by giving Robert a childish enthusiasm, collecting antique musical toys.54 When he unveils his “masterpiece” to his guests, he unveils himself, a man dwarfed by his own petty obsession, representing a society so lost that it can only amuse itself by collecting the transient amusements of the past. Collecting art, collecting “greatness,” would be too much of a burden. Let’s keep it light, folks.
But when he’s away from his toys, Robert is, very largely, the consummate aristocrat. He isn’t bullied by his servants. He demands the best, and they deliver. In his dealings with his mistress, he is always the gentleman, polite but firm. When Geneviève forces a confrontation, he doesn’t give a centimeter. I don’t love you anymore. It’s over. He hates all unpleasantness, but if you force it on him, he returns it. He extends every courtesy to others, but ultimately he doesn’t allow anything to get in the way of his enjoyment of life.
And this is the crux of the matter: Renoir loves his aristocrats too much to abandon them. It is probably “no accident,” as the commies used to say, that the two writers cited by Renoir in this film, Beaumarchais and Chamfort, were both 18th-century writers and wits who flourished before the Revolution and who suffered during it.55 For all his criticism of the hollowness of aristocratic society, Renoir can’t imagine — wouldn’t want to imagine — anything to replace it. To live for style, for perfect manners — to live in the grand manner — surely that is everything!56
The Rules of the Game would be a much “harder” film if it was Christine who was killed. Then we would have much more a sense of a society falling apart. But André’s death isn’t nearly as upsetting. Despite Robert’s words, André isn’t “one of our set.” Rather, he’s an interloper who violates the natural order of things. Once he’s been eliminated, the game can resume, under all the old rules.
The famous hunting sequence, which, when we first see it, seems to be the defining moment in the film — when we see the heartless heart of this society laid bare — proves to be a false scent. The elegant slaughter, the casual brutality of the hunt never returns to devour the hunters, as Renoir implicitly promised it would, because Renoir simply doesn’t want his poor, noble aristocrats to die.
The harshest thing the French have to say about themselves is that they aren’t serious.57) The Revolution, after all, which many French still like to believe was the most important event in human history, which was supposed to change everything, actually changed nothing. If the Revolution didn’t matter, how can anything matter? In The Rules of the Game, Renoir satirizes this languor, but ultimately doesn’t escape it. Because, really, where would you go? And it’s so warm inside!
The Rules of the Game is available in a brilliant restoration in a two-disc format (of course) from Criterion (of course), with many extras, including interviews with Renoir himself. The film has a fabled history, about which I’m a little skeptical. According to legend, it was reviled by the critics when first released, but really, why not? What did the coming and goings of a handful of Chanel-clad sophisticates have to do with the life led by 99.99% of Frenchmen and Frenchwomen?
Renoir, speaking of the film’s reception in an interview from the early sixties, says that he intended the film to be a portrait of a society that is “rotten to the core,” a hackneyed phrase that he repeats three times. But later he says that he wants us, ultimately, to love his characters, which surely represents his true feelings.
Still, it must have been heartbreaking for Renoir to cut, as he did, his masterpiece — whether to satisfy distributors or to make it more “correct” he doesn’t say. The magnificent sets in which the action takes place, the infinite care with which Renoir arranged each shot — the lighting, the composition, the placing of the actors — how horrible to lose a single frame! If you are less interested in the French social structure immediately prior to World War II and more interested in film, you really ought to see The Rules of the Game a dozen times — a dozen times a year, that is, just to remind yourself of what could be done.
Edward Copeland has a fine review online here, with excellent screen captures from the film.
- OK, so what’s so terrible about The Grand Illusion and Children of Paradise? The Grand Illusion is grand and romantic — too romantic. World War I never looked so bloodless! Renoir achieves artistic completeness by leaving too much out. As for Children of Paradise, well, I always felt that it attempted more than The Rules of the Game, but it suffered from having a few obvious flaws, most notably, the fact that the “great” clown Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) simply isn’t funny. And the magnificent rhymed plot — its only equal is King Lear — isn’t quite perfect: the teeth of the zipper don’t all fit together. It’s a bit shameful to carp, but in a forest of real jewels the false ones do stand out. [↩]
- For some reason, French historians love to refer to France as “the hexagon,” as though le bon dieu himself drew Marianne’s borders. [↩]
- When The Rules of the Game was made, Gregor was married to Prince Ernst Ruediger von Starhemberg. Dunno what he was prince of, but it sounds classy. [↩]
- Years ago, I had a girlfriend, Cindy, who, when she wanted to do some “real” shopping, would go out with her sister Bonnie. Once she returned from a four-hour session and announced “Bonnie and I looked at every pair of size 5 jeans in Tyson’s Corners. “Les femmes,” I said. “Well, there’s only one thing I can say to that.” “What?” “Les hommes.” For the first and last time in my life, I felt as though I were living in a French farce. [↩]
- Lisette doesn’t like the evening lipstick because it’s too purple, not natural. “What’s natural these days?” asks Christine, in a bit of a groaner. When was the last time anyone accused the European aristocracy of being natural? 807? [↩]
- He has nothing to fear because he is a gentleman, and a gentleman never has anything to fear. [↩]
- In fact, an upper-class Viennese like Christine would probably speak French as her first language rather than her second. [↩]
- “L’amour, tel qu’il existe dans la société, est l’échange de deux fantaisies et le contact de deux épidermes,” en français. She’s quoting, Sébastien Roch Nicolas Chamfort, naturellement. Yeah, that Chamfort. You didn’t know? Oy, are you stupid! For more on the dude, go here. For a much needed, though necessarily incomplete, disquisition on the agonies of translating le bon Sébastien, go here . [↩]
- Well, it’s going pretty fast by French standards, anyway. [↩]
- Early by aristocratic standards, at least. I guess this is the next day, since Robert visited Geneviève at the scarce godly hour of eleven AM to announce that they were splitsville, and now he’s back in his dressing gown. [↩]
- You get a lot of this from Henry James, who never got tired of fussing over his helplessly young, helplessly beautiful, helplessly rich heroines. Check out Portrait of a Lady or The Princess Cassimassima (the name says it, pretty much) or The Wings of a Dove if you’ve got the guts. Evelyn Waugh did the same thing with “Lady Marchmain” in Brideshead Revisited, and there was a great deal of similar gush over “Princess Di.” [↩]
- Are the French really Jewish? Maybe! Maybe! [↩]
- Robert is addressed by the servants as “monsieur le marquis,” but no one else ever seems to refer to his title. According to my Proust, Christine should refer to Robert, at least when speaking to the servants, as “monsieur le marquis,” but perhaps that went out of style after WWI. Proust’s great chapter on “the wit of the Guermantes,” describing the mores of the advanced aristocracy at the turn of the twentieth century, is still the last word on society pretense. [↩]
- I think that’s what they are. [↩]
- We never find out exactly what the rabbit problem is. Apparently, Robert wants them to disappear (I guess they’re eating something, or their burrows are spoiling the turf), but the next day he and his guests are hunting them. If there were no rabbits, what would the folks have to shoot? Aristocrats! They want it all! [↩]
- The two provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were famously, or infamously, transferred from France to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and then transferred back after World War I. Although Alsace was transferred to France in the latter half of the seventeenth century, much of the population remained German and language and heritage, and many Alsatians who were “French” migrated to France after 1871, increasing the Germanic character of the province. [↩]
- Or, as that noted countryman Lyndon Baines Johnson put it, “The only three things that make life worth living are sex, whiskey, and sunshine!” (Following a severe heart attack in 1955, poor Lyndon was confronted with a massive list of “don’ts,” which he promptly ignored. [↩]
- One shot shows Marceau (right) emerging from a grove like a thoroughly disreputable, French Pan. [↩]
- Le maison de Chanel did the costumes (top that, Hollywood!). Geneviève is sometimes over the top and sometimes elegant (as in the shooting sequence). Robert is always meticulously attired in seriously occasion-specific outfits, because aristocrats do love to accessorize. The correct clothes, the correct fork, the correct gun, say what you like, it does fill up the time! [↩]
- Odette isn’t much of a name, but she also appeared in René Clair’s Le million and Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un Poète. Not bad for a fat chick! [↩]
- Jackie is in love with André, but her role is so underwritten that she has no real impact on the plot. [↩]
- Masquerades are in fact very popular with the very rich, because it’s such a good way to spend ridiculous amounts of money. These clothes aren’t only expensive, they’re useless! [↩]
- Renoir shoots down the table to show that the staff have their choice of half a dozen vintages. Later, Lisette munches happily on an apple, and the others even enjoy fresh bananas, a real luxury in pre-war Europe. Back in the twenties my grandmother watched her cook make a cake. “My husband would love this cake,” the cook said. “Why don’t you make one for him?” my grandmother asked. “Oh, I couldn’t! It has an egg in it!” Eggs! They’re only for the rich, not us common folk! [↩]
- There’s a very elaborate in-joke involved in this table scene. Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous photographer, has a bit part as “le domestique anglais.” (How we’re supposed to tell that he’s anglais is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps Renoir cut his role.) When he asks Lisette to pass the mustard, in (apparently) bad French, she responds gleefully “if you please” (en anglais). Did Henri entertain his friends with imitations of stupid Englishmen speaking French? One can only guess. [↩]
- In Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, a denunciation of “modern” decadence circa 1875, the fact that the Prince of Wales will socialize with Jews is seen as evidence of the impending collapse of Western Civilization. [↩]
- I guess it helps to be only one-quarter Jewish and to have lots of money. [↩]
- I’ve heard more than one woman say that a slap on the fanny is evidence of a suppression of desire rather than its expression. That would be consistent with Octave’s character, but I suspect that Renoir was being “roguish” rather than self-critical. [↩]
- I cribbed this gag from Disraeli. [↩]
- In his enjoyable memoir Call the Briefing! Reagan/Bush spokesman Marlin Fitzwater describes a mid-western “coyote” hunt, a yearly ritual when he was growing up in Kansas in the fifties. In Kansas you did your own beating, of course, the hunters arranged in a huge square that gradually closed in on itself. Actual coyotes were few, but there were plenty of rabbits, and Fitzwater describes it like this: “After three or four hours, when our legs were beginning to cramp from the strain of climbing through weeds and vines and prickly underbrush, tiny specks began to appear on the horizon, first one, then another, until it looked like someone had drawn a dotted line across the bottom of the sky, and you could tell they were men with guns. Still out of sight were the rabbits, thousands of them running at full pace with whatever energy they had left, darting in every direction, some even panicking and turning back toward the lines, running full-face into a fury of gunshots, leaving only the strongest to make it to that deadly center of the hunt, when rabbits would actually run into each other, jump high into the air when shot, and dozens of men would shoot continuously until every sign of life was gone. It was the mad flurry of shots that made me turn away in horror.” [↩]
- There are some shots of pheasants too, but somehow they aren’t as heart-rending. I guess fur beats feathers in a sympathy poll. [↩]
- In keeping with his character, Octave does not carry a gun. [↩]
- Later she says that she didn’t hit anything, which sounds like a rather lame attempt on Renoir’s part to excuse her from the slaughter. [↩]
- Renoir gives us no suggestion as to what the breakup might mean financially to Geneviève. No one seems to need cash in this film, which was hardly the case in France in 1939. [↩]
- . Earlier, in another more than classic shot, Christine uses the field glass to watch a squirrel high in the branches above her, its shy, delicate face as innocent and trembling as the human hearts we bury so deeply within our flesh. [↩]
- If he gets a first name, I didn’t catch it. [↩]
- Actually, the French don’t say “encore.” They say “bis” (“twice”). [↩]
- We were told at the beginning of the film that St. Aubin “had a crush” on Christine. But this seems awfully thrown together. [↩]
- Besides, Geneviève keeps tackling him. [↩]
- I have no idea what Renoir was like in real life. He may have been the King of Cunt. [↩]
- Renoir includes a number of shots of the staff, staring entranced at the antics of their betters. I guess Renoir thinks this is touching. I find it creepy. [↩]
- Okay, this would be enough to piss off the Pope. [↩]
- How he exits is very unclear. [↩]
- Renoir is no doubt thinking, in some way, of his relation with his own father, Auguste Renoir, the great impressionist painter, though Jean is in fact perhaps the only son of a great artist to be the equal of his father. In other pairs — Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart, Johan Sebastian and Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach, for example — either the father or the son is eclipsed. [↩]
- This is surely an echo of the reputed dying words of Rabelais, “la farce est jouée.” (“The farce is over.” [↩]
- Renoir, I have to say, is very unfair to Jackie here and not terribly fair to Geneviève either. I can accept Jackie fainting at fisticuffs, I suppose, but as a modern, “serious” girl, she would be profoundly ashamed at the idea of fainting so that a man would pick her up. And why does Geneviève have to behave like a complete ninny? She’s a woman of the world, not a schoolgirl. [↩]
- Schumacher is the only character in the film who cries. [↩]
- In the early sixties, Renoir gave a brief filmed overview of the history of The Rules of the Game (he called it La Règle du Jeu), describing how he cut it after the disastrous premiere. The reassembly was almost perfect, except for a missing scene between Octave and Marceau, in which they both express their enthusiasm for bedding maids, which would tie things together a little better. [↩]
- I guess it would be wrong for Christine to run off in Lisette’s cloak. [↩]
- This is more than a bit thick. Lisette would surely appeal to Jackie’s social position rather than her education. Anyone can get an education, but only the few are well-born. [↩]
- And surely “the Austrian Cunt” as well, though I’ve never seen that translation. [↩]
- Beaumarchais’ play is available in several translations. The one I read, by David Coward (Oxford World Classics), is pretty flat-footed, but I don’t know if that’s the translator’s fault or the author’s. [↩]
- The Mozart opera concludes with an ecstasy of forgiveness, easier to achieve in music than in words, at least if you’re Mozart. Beaumarchais’ play concludes with song as well, with verses by each of the principals, but the text suggests a more practical kind of forgiveness — men and women must learn to forgive each other, because they are so often in need of forgiveness. [↩]
- Or Louis XVI with a Jewish grandfather. If Louis had had a Jewish grandfather, he probably wouldn’t have lost his head. [↩]
- Louis actually had a very odd, but very solitary hobby, being a locksmith. [↩]
- From Robespierre to Bin Laden, revolutionaries invariably lack a sense of humor. Beaumarchais was an extraordinary public figure, who reinvented himself numerous times, and was a symbol of “freedom” in the last days of the ancien regime. Louis XVI banned Le Mariage de Figaro for its “revolutionary” message. In a classic case of life imitating art, Marie Antoinette played the female lead in a court presentation of Beaumarchais’ earlier play Le Barbier de Séville, which introduced the Figaro characters. During the American Revolution, Beaumarchais was a leading arms supplier to the rebels, for which he received very little credit, or cash, from perfidious America. During the French Revolution, Beaumarchais was imprisoned but later released. Chamfort had a similarly adventurous life. He too was imprisoned but released during the Revolution. When threatened with a second incarceration, his attempts at suicide, with both gun and knife, were gruesome failures, leaving him with a bullet in his head, which, thanks to a change in the revolutionary temper, remained on his shoulders. “I feel livelier than ever,” he remarked, with admirable sangfroid. “What a pity that I no longer care about living.” [↩]
- Like all apologists for the aristocracy, Renoir takes refuge in idolizing the servants. They at least really kept the faith, worked hard, and kept up the standards. But to spend 14 hours a day ensuring that monsieur’s cravat has that effortless crease, well, I’d rather sit in my bathrobe and type. [↩]
- In her pretty good, pretty Woody Allenish flick, 2 Days in Paris, writer/director/star Julie Delpy is almost as hard on France (and herself) as Woody is on everyone except himself. (I gotta note that not only did Julie write, direct, and star in 2 Days, she also produced it, wrote the music, and did the editing. Match that, Woodman! [↩]