Singer, Irving. "Jean Renoir." Three Philosophical Filmmakers: Hitchcock, Welles, Renoir. Palatino: MIT Press, 2004: 146-219.
Irving Singer holds the belief that each of Renoir's films led him on a path to discovery of both the culture around him and himself. He believes that Renoir's character of Octave in Rules of the Game is actually a self-representation: that Renoir desired to play himself, someone that "lost contact with the public" (149). Octave is also shown as slightly inept and mismanaged, revealing Renoir's attempt to level and connect with the public. Singer includes a comment made by Renoir stating that he's only ever "shot one film," maintaining the belief that Renoir strived to provide an accurate representation of French society, even when this meant he must display his views in contrast with those of the general public (147). Singer remarks, however, that Renoir so wished to connect with his audience, with his society, that he became almost desperate to achieve contact and that this desperation led to Renoir's near destruction of Rules of the Game when he continually cut out pieces of the film that may have offended audiences. Singer believes that, in the years leading up to WWII, Renoir's main goal in his filmmaking was to explore how people relate to each other, to nature, and to technology. Singer also expresses the belief that Renoir drew alot from Hinduism, explaining the filmmaker's desire to contrast the differences between his character's spiritual and material lives, a central theme in Rules of the Game.
Singer's chapter on Renoir provides a very interesting take on the filmmaker and his works. It is clear, especially after reading this work, that Jean Renoir was on a quest for truth, using film as a tool to capture society in its most realistic form. Rules of the Game was greatly influenced by the fact that Renoir wished to accurately depict French society though he, of course, was somewhat blinded by his own middle-class beliefs and tendencies. For instance, Renoir criticizes the bourgeios and the servants equally, as he, himself, stood in the middle ground, exempt from criticism. Renoir, however, is nowhere near self-praising; instead, the film functions somewhat as an autobiography with Renoir playing the role of Octave, his on-screen representation. Both lament that they have lost contact with the public. This comment is shown to be almost comically, though paradoxically, true: Renoir had never expected such a negative response from his audience. Up until this point, Renoir's works were, for the most part, celebrated by French society. The point at which he became public about his concerns of losing emotional and intellectual touch with the people, his work invokes a disastrous result and Renoir physically disconnects from his people by fleeing the country. This work also provides a very interesting look at another of Renoir's influences: religion, describing how the beliefs of Hinduism propelled him on his quest for turth amidst spiritual and material confusion.
Buss, Robin. "La Regle de jeu/The Rule of the Game (1939)." The French Through Their Films. New York: Ungar, 1988: 55, 114.
In his book, Robin Buss analyzes several important French films and how they relate to the society they depict as well as the movements they were a part of. He remarks that Rules of the Game was initially met with indifference and not long after, critiqued and banned. Now, however, the film is revered as one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. Buss explains that this extremely quick change in preferences is representative of the rapid culture changes in the past half century, especially in French society, and more importantly, as a result of war. Buss also points out an extremely interesting symbol in Rules of the Game: Renoir's use of food. For instance, Octave's refusal of breakfast is considered a sign of distress. The very importance placed on food in the culture depicted by Renoir both helps audiences connect to the story and reveals a superficiality present in the customs of popular culture. Thus, the very technique Renoir uses to reach out to his audience also condemns the practices central to their daily lives.
Robin Buss' book is an overall filmography of early 20th century French cinema. It provides an interesting look at Rules of the Game by placing it in its historical context. Unlike many other sources, Buss's book shows Renoir's film as one of the many. Instead of being the sole topic of discussion, the film is juxtaposed with other important works of French cinema, some with very similar themes, and readers are able to assess the importance of Rules of the Game at a point 50 years after its release. Most interestingly, Buss offers an alternate topic of study for the film: the use of food as a symbol. Renoir's use of this symbol could have a two-fold purpose: the first to connect with his audience. Renoir expressed a deep desire to become one with the public and the use of such a communal symbol would have not only brought his audience together but also forged a bond between the audience and the characters. The second purpose, conversely, is to provide a critique of French culture. In this tumultuous, growingly amoral society, food is one of the only thing that still matters. Fulfilling both of these purposes, food is also shown as a connector between the ruling class and the servants. This aides both in drawing connections to unite French society but also, more subtly, in upholding a method of critique.