La Règle du jeu was the first and is still the finest of all the films that we see in a director's cut. The work of French cinephiles in the 1950s restored Jean Renoir's work to glory. It had been a disaster at its premiere in 1939, just weeks before the outbreak of war. Its failure, Renoir wrote, 'depressed me so much that I made up my mind either to forsake cinema or to leave France.' Before and after its rejection at the box office, panic cutting savaged the available prints.
In the years after the war, Renoir's film was to become a legendary lost masterpiece, but Renoir had to wait twenty years for his vindication. In 1959,
a reconstructed print triumphed in its first screening at the Venice Film Festival. Since then it has claimed its place among the cinema's most profound and fascinating achievements. François Truffaut was just one of a host of directors inspired by La Règle du jeu: 'the credo of film lovers, the film of films, the most despised on its release and the most valued afterward.'
V.F. Perkins traces the movie's fortunes from the time of its production. He offers a nuanced account that explores its shifting moods, the depth of its themes and the uniqueness of its style. La Règle du jeu is renowned for its construction as an ensemble piece with a large cast of principal characters. Perkins follows this cue and frames his analysis as a discussion of four key actors and their roles in the film – Roland Toutain (André), Marcel Dalio (Robert), Nora Gregor (Christine) and Renoir himself as Octave. Exploring characterisation becomes a means to shed light on the subtlety of Renoir's direction. Casting, composition, décor and cutting are seen to work with the complex organisation of shots in deep focus to develop a challenging perspective on the bourgeoisie of 1939, in Renoir's words, 'dancing on a volcano'.
This special edition is published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series.
Foundation at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Studied at Brighton, gaining a BA (Hons) Illustration in 1989. After working for 5 years in game design I became a Freelance illustrator in 1995. I have concentrated mostly in book jacket illustration but also created original artwork for clients such as Paul Smith, Ted Baker, Royal Caribbean.
Could you explain the concept of your cover design? How does your artwork convey the themes/motifs of La règle du jeu?
After working through several ideas centred on the hunting scene and the farcical chases through the house, I settled for concentrating on the tangled relationships between the main characters and their hierarchy, with Robert, Marquis de la Cheyniest at the top of the pile, looking down on all the other players.
What techniques and materials did you use to create your artwork?
I paint using stencils cut from wallpaper lining paper. I apply matt emulsion house paint with a sponge, usually onto a plywood base, I also use paint splattered by a toothbrush for texture and brushwork for details. To bring the texture of the wood into the image I scrape the surface of the painting with a stanley knife blade.
What is your earliest film memory?
Around the age of 4 – a 3 minute, standard 8mm b/w film of a chimpanzee working a railway Handcar (Pump trolley) - one of several short films that my parents used regularly to entertain us youngsters at parties.
What inspires you?
All kinds of ephemera. Films of the 1940's and 50's. Russian revolutionary posters. Hand-painted street signs. Badly registered prints on fruit crates. Birds. Peeling paint on wood.
What are you working on now?
A children's book cover for a novel about monkeys in India, a cover illustration for a novel about an illegal immigrant african boy in London, an illustration for a novel about someone who keeps bees, a logo for a recycling company, a painting of a friend's guitar, an aluminium sculpture of beer bottles and some self-promotional images using old envelopes as a base.