Bates, Robin. "Audiences on the Verge of a Fascist Breakdown: Male Anxieties and Late 1930s French Film." Cinema Journal 36.3 (1997): 25-55.
This article by Bates brings into question the general trends of French film in the late 1930s. By offering a comparison of 3 films—Marcel Carné’s Quai des brumes (1938), Maurice Tourneur’s Katia (1938) and Renoir’s La Règle du jeu (1939)—Bates delves into the role that film played for “viewers on the verge of cataclysmic change,” i.e. those at the brink of World War II (25). She uses various sources, such as reviews, letters, and even censorship rulings, in order to prove that film audiences respond more favorably to works that ease their concerns and angrily to those that exacerbate and confront these anxieties. Bates also analyzes the “crisis of masculinity,” a term coined by Ginette Vincendeau. She argues that in the atmosphere of pre-World War II Europe, as deeply powerful males like Hitler, Franco and Mussolini grew in influence, the French people began to grow disheartened and lose confidence in their male leaders. Thus, these three films reflect this idea of weak masculine characters.
Bates’ argument is relevant to my thesis because it proposes a different infusion of politics into the film. Bates mentions Theweleit’s description of archetypes, categorizing the character of Christine into the type of “pure white countess” (27). One could even argue that these archetypes are taken to the fullest extent in the film to be used for a scathing critique of the haute bourgeoisie. Her argument that the portrayal of males and male-female relations in film drastically changed in the late 1930s as a result of the pre-War political situation supports my argument. Bates’ article also provides in-depth analyses of the three films and includes key reactions to the films at the time of their premieres, again showing the effects of the films on not just French, but also European society.
Renoir, Jean, and Leo Braudy. "Renoir at Home Interview with Jean Renoir." Film Quarterly 50.1 (1996): 2-8.
Leo Braudy conducts an interview with Jean Renoir in the filmmaker's Beverly Hills home in 1970. The published interview gives insight into Renoir’s mentality and reflection on his films. Braudy asks questions regarding the influence of Renoir’s father. For example, he asks whether the director had considered the possibility of using his father’s priceless paintings to fund film projects; even further, the two discuss the filmmaker and his father’s existentialist philosophies. Along with explanations of various Renoir films, such as the meaning behind the title Le Caporal épinglé (and the equivalent English misnomer), or the role of costumes in his films, there is also a discussion on the idea of epic versus pastoral films, during which Renoir comments that his epic films came when there were contemporary epic topics to portray in his films, rather than on a whim.
This interview provides key insight into the opinions and philosophies of Jean Renoir. Though it does not provide direct commentary on the influence of political events on his films, there is useful evidence of personal inspiration for and influences on Renoir’s films. Obviously, Renoir’s films, La Règle du jeu included, were not solely motivated by political events or ideologies. This source in particular offers direct information and dialogue with the filmmaker, which makes it more insightful and honest than others. Incorporation of Renoir’s own words and his own perspectives provides another angle from which to build my case and analyze the approach to the creation of La Règle du jeu during such a turbulent political era.
Silver, Charles. "Jean Renoir and Josef Von Sternberg: A Centennial Duo." MoMA.18 (1994): 24-7.
Silver compares and contrasts Jean Renoir and Josef Von Sternberg. As contemporaries in the film industry, the two filmmakers carry numerous similarities, and even some coincidences link the two. Both immigrated to the United States, residing in California, especially in response to Hitler’s growing power in Europe, and both also maintained similar close relationships with their actors. Silver even compares Renoir to Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, as they both chose actors they already knew as people; Renoir would cast his brother Pierre, or close friends like Jean Gabin. Even in terms of cinematic themes, Renoir and Sternberg both focused on the power and pervasiveness of water throughout their filmmaking careers. Yet, the two filmmakers also had a number of differences. Whereas Renoir maintained a more impromptu, almost sloppy style, Sternberg had a reputedly more perfectionist directing style, clearly dictating his cinematic vision to his actors.
Though Silver’s piece is more of a broad discussion of two filmmakers during the World War II era, he does mention artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s influence on his son Jean. Silver also discusses Jean Renoir’s “reverence for the past, both civilization’s and his own,” which incorporates not only the politics of the time, but also the literary and artistic movements, and technological advancements (i.e. sound film) that accompanied (26). Silver does not focus deeply on exactly what political events directly affected the making of La Règle du jeu, but does offer key insight to greater cultural influences on the filmmaker, which loosely supports the concept that the era’s politics and culture molded the film.
Tifft, Stephen. "Drôle De Guerre: Renoir, Farce, and the Fall of France." Representations.38 (1992): 131-65.
Tifft argues a relatively more direct relationship between events of the 1930s and the creation of Renoir’s La Règle du jeu. According to Tifft, current events did more than just influence Renoir; Renoir incorporated direct concepts and ideas from events of the era into specific scenes. For example, Renoir’s digust with the Munich appeasement agreements led to the Marquis de Chesnaye’s yielding to Jurieu, gladly appeasing him, and permitting him to run away with his wife in La Règle du jeu. This concept parallels the appeasement of Hitler by pressuring Czechoslovakia to yield the Sudetenland. Both situations would lead to disaster. Tifft also focuses his discussion on Renoir’s innovative use of farce in combination with history, especially noted in the hunt scene. Renoir’s film would, in turn, influence its viewers as much as the filmmaker’s observations of society had influenced the creation of it.
Tifft’s argument is, in fact, extremely supportive of my own thesis. By proving that current events played a much larger role than expected in Renoir’s creation of La Règle du jeu, Tifft reinforces my argument ten-fold. He raises unique points as he mentions direct corresponding ideas between history and scenes in the film. Though some of Tifft's concepts and parallels between the film and current events seem a bit farfetched, La Règle du jeu was clearly a means for Renoir to portray his left-wing political views, and offer commentary on his opinion of the state of affairs of the country immediately before it entered World War II.
Brooks, Charles William. "Jean Renoir's the Rules of the Game." French Historical Studies 7.2 (1971): 264-83.
In this chapter of French Historical Studies, Brooks describes the influence of current events to the production of French film (during the era of French realist cinema). Especially as economic depression played a growing role in France by 1934, filmmakers took cues from the social context of the time period to inspire their films. Brooks includes a quotation by Marcel Carné, who stated, “the highest mission of a filmmaker is to be a barometer of his times” (266). Brooks also offers a close study of Renoir’s focus on class disparities, perhaps his favorite theme. With an analysis of Boudu Saved from Drowning, Brooks explores the role of class differences between the tramp Boudu and the bourgeois Lestingois. The same applies to Brooks’ explanation of La Règle du jeu, and the film’s clear commentary on the acceptability and ubiquity of lies in the 1930s. Affected by ideals of the Popular Front, Renoir in La Règle du jeu and other films reveals his “middle-class anarchist” tendencies (282).
Brooks’ chapter on Jean Renoir is applicable because it clearly focuses on the influence of politics and history on French filmmakers of the time. Especially through his discussion and close analysis of La Règle du jeu and other Renoir films, Brooks underscores the theory that Renoir’s films were very much a result of the times. Renoir’s focus on the differences between classes in society, and the raging criticisms of bourgeois life served more as social commentary than as effective means to appease audiences. In fact, bourgeois audiences hissed at the blatant denigration of their class. Though the film itself was an instant failure in the theaters, Brooks explains its significance relative to current events that surround the era, and manages to emphasize social effects on filmmakers’ choice of themes, which plays well into my argument that current events had much to do with Renoir’s La Règle du jeu.
Bergstrom, Janet. "Jean Renoir's Return to France." Poetics Today 17.3, Creativity and Exile: European/American Perspectives I (1996): 453-89.
Bergstrom delves into the question of why Jean Renoir did not return to France following World War II. After directing La Règle du jeu in 1939, Renoir fled to the United States, where he resided until his death. Many French citizens and critics like André Bazin considered this a traitorous act, as all other French filmmakers who had fled to the United States had returned after the War. Especially in light of the fact that Jean Renoir had almost single-handedly molded the French poetic realist genre that was so characteristic of the pre-War time period, it seemed even more blasphemous that he would not return to his native homeland. Bergstrom also discusses a growing disparity between Renoir’s films before and after World War II. Pre-War films distinctly follow a realist style, whereas post-War films have clearly yielded to Hollywood’s influences and expectations. For this reason, it seems after World War II, Renoir fit neither French film style nor American film style, and was some awkward amalgamation of the two.
Bergstrom’s analysis of Renoir’s career before and after World War II is fascinating and quite relevant to my thesis. Her description of not only Renoir’s personal life, such as his association with communists through his wife Marguerite Houllé and his writing for the communist publication Ce soir, but also the political events of the time reveal the changes in the environment in which he lived in a span of decades. Bergstrom also mentions the process and history of creating La Règle du jeu, including Renoir’s association with various other French filmmakers and his philosophical allegiances to writers like Émile Zola. In particular, it is interesting to note Bergstrom’s argument that La Règle du jeu’s failure fueled Renoir’s reluctance to return to France after the War.
Buchsbaum, Jonathan. "Toward Victory: Left Film in France, 1930-35." Cinema Journal 25.3 (1986): 22-52.
Buchsbaum’s article outlines artists’ and intellectuals’ involvement with the popular front in France in the 1930s. Especially after the French elected their first socialist government in 1936, the changed politics of the time began to reflect changing views of the people and a shift in French culture. Buchsbaum notes that interestingly, despite cues from Soviets, the French Communist Party (PCF) did not actively seek to create propaganda films. Perhaps La Crise in 1931 was the closest, by portraying the benefits of pacifism and the brutality of war. Despite the Comintern’s consistent utilization of film and literature to promote the values of communism, the popularity of Soviet films by Eisenstein and Vertov, and the formation of Le groupe Octobre, the PCF did not seem to follow suit to the extent it could have.
Buchsbaum argues that “film sought to make interventions in the immediate political reality of the time” (22). His article is applicable to my thesis for its thorough discussion of the political situation of the time period in which Renoir created La Règle du jeu. There was truly a development of a left film culture in France, even though it may not have been taken to the clear extent of Soviet propaganda film during the same era. By analyzing the transition of French cinema culture and developments in film trends in the 1930s, Buchsbaum emphasizes the radical role of politics in filmmaking. Communism was widespread and an increasingly popular ideology, while fascism, its rival ideology, was also gaining power in countries like Germany. Though Buchsbaum only briefly mentions Renoir once, his article is paramount to understanding the political and social atmosphere of the time.
Faulkner, Christopher, and Jean Renoir. "Jean Renoir Addresses the League of American Writers." Film History 8.1, Cinema and Nation (1996): 64-71.
Faulkner’s commentary in combination with Renoir’s own address to the League of American Writers offers insight into the political ideologies of the filmmaker. Faulkner begins by describing the political atmosphere of the era and the environment in which Renoir gave his 1943 speech. The League of American Writers (LAW) was an organization of left-leaning intellectuals who gathered in blatant censure of fascism. LAW was considered to be a key player in the American popular front alliance. Renoir’s involvement with the organization is testament not only to his political beliefs but also reveals the many artists and intellectuals he was associated with. These individuals had likely great influences on the filmmaker. For example, Renoir collaborated with Dudley Nichols on This Land is Mine in 1943, which revealed both individuals’ opinions on working class struggles and criticisms of fascism. Renoir’s speech to LAW would, in fact, draw parallels from dialogue in this film.
Renoir’s speech would be a great complement to my thesis because it is clearly a description of the filmmaker’s political views. It is clear that he was extremely left-leaning in ideology, associated with communists and other liberal thinkers, and made a point to fight back against the fascist regimes that were gaining power in the 1930s and 1940s. Renoir was also extremely nationalist and prideful of his home country of France. He encouraged solidarity and the need to love fellow citizens in order to love citizens of other nations. Faulkner’s discussion of Renoir’s politics brings to light the important role the political environment of the 1930s and 1940s played in the creation of Renoir’s films. His discussion of Renoir’s attitudes towards the interplay of politics and art is equally significant and relevant to my argument.
Renoir, Jean. "La Regle du jeu--1939." My Life and My Films. Trans. Norman Denny. N.p.: Da Capo, 1991. Rpt. in Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game. N.p.: n.p., n.d.
In this excerpt from his book, Renoir describes the process in which he planned the creation of La Règle du jeu. Baroque music, especially the works of Coupenn, Rameau, Lulli and Grétry, served as the platform for Renoir’s focus on the haute bourgeoisie. A focus on Lestringuez’s “amorous intrigues” inspired the filmmaker to focus on the frivolity of love as a thematic motif in the film. Hearkening back to his early childhood, Renoir recounted images of Sologne—the fog, the countryside, and the hunting season—all clearly portrayed in the film. Renoir also describes the influence of Les Caprices de Marianne, which he had originally considered creating a modern remake of; a fragment of its themes would be seen in the tragic climax of La Règle du jeu.
This excerpt of Renoir’s book is particularly interesting and relevant to my thesis because of its description of the filmmaker’s philosophy and his own awareness of what influences him. He describes the role of Nora Grégor, who played Christine de La Chesnaye, and her husband, as the two faced increasing troubles with the rise of Hitler in their homeland of Austria. Renoir described his approach to film by saying, “One starts with the environment to arrive at the self.” Essentially, he takes from what is around him to come upon what he is to create; he wrote the part of Christine for Nora Grégor. This philosophy is the same of Renoir’s father. Jean Renoir claims La Règle du jeu is a war film, though there is not a blatant ounce of war in the film. Instead, the film was a result of the impending World War II. Renoir intended to offer a pleasant film for audiences to forget their worries; however, La Règle du jeu emphasized the dismantling of French society, testament to Renoir’s inability to isolate himself from the politics of the time, and further evidence in support of my argument.
Rafferty, Terrence. "FILM; 'The Film of Films': Renoir's Masterpiece." Rev. of La Regle du jeu, dir. Jean Renoir. New York Times 18 Jan. 2004. 30 Nov. 2008 .
In this film review, Rafferty describes Renoir’s own aversion to technical refinements as they pertain to film. In light of the recent DVD release of Renoir’s La Règle du jeu, Rafferty pays homage to the director and his ability to skillfully dismantle the conventions of 18th century comedic film. Apart from a brief plot summary and discussion of Renoir’s focus on the “bourgeois of our age,” Rafferty raises some interesting points with regard to parallels between Renoir’s life and experiences, and scenes in the film. For example, Rafferty posits that the final scene of the character Octave, played by Renoir himself, leaving the estate without direction suggests Renoir’s plans to leave France immediately following the premiere of the film. This suggests that perhaps Octave was a spitting image of Renoir not only physically, but mentally and in terms of personality. This would also agree with Renoir’s method of actor selection and his notorious impromptu style of script editing and filming. Providing historical context and mention of the film’s ban during World War II, Rafferty offers a wide scope of insight into the film’s making.
Rafferty’s review, though inspired by the DVD release of the film, makes note of different important aspects of the film. His description of the film’s parallels to Renoir’s own life offers a deeper psychological connection to the filmmaker than simply the political atmosphere that may have influenced La Règle du jeu. This presents another perspective with which to approach the greater question of the influences of current events at the time of the film’s creation, and other personal influences that affected Renoir, the subject of my thesis.