Dwight MacDonald on film; 1940s: France and Rules of the Game
And I think this is what makes this a very very great film. This ability to get below the surface of the sensible action and the ostensible relations of people. And then list them literally leads to a great deal of much later films. The fact that there's a knight in 1940 is quite extraordinary if any of you know saying the fences to fly was shoot the pianist. That film would be almost impossible to imagine without without this film I mean shoot the pianist is as I was being a radical was very much the way that Eisenstein's films autograph of films and otherwise that I carried out the logic of this film to the extreme and putting that into more conscious form. How many of. You are listening to Dwight McDonald on film but during the past decade Mr. McDonald has been perhaps the senior critic among American film critics
and during this past year he was distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. These programs were drawn from the lecture series the topic for this program is the French film of the 1940s. John Brennan was rules of the game and children of paradise by Marcel current day. Now once again here is right MacDonald. Now I'm not going to talk about the film around water until afterward because I think I'd like to see what you have reaction isn't to have that sort of thing without any prompting and so on. And also I hope to have a certain amount of discussion of dolling I will say this that. This is from a new film by John Slattery who's considered one of the best most interesting of the English directors. And in fact I've seen a few films in recent years that use the medium
as fluidly and in many ways brilliantly as this film does from close ups and photography to cutting. And it has a very tied rather witty realistic script and the acting is quite good especially in the smaller pots and as you remember I was saying last time. That one of the tasks of a good movie is the casting of the lesser pots and also whether the latter parts have a certain amount of space in which to develop themselves in the breeze and in this case this is true. I have great reservations about the film which I won't go into now I will save it for later but anyway it's certainly extremely out of time and interest in film and I think one of the interesting things is that darling is really from what this same thought of I found when I thematic why rules of the game in other words drowning is about the corruption. Typical expose of the
corruption of English life and of the guy is really the same thing bad about class Frank's life across earlier this rules of the game was made in 1940. And this is one of the great films of all time. And this rules of the game is the prophetic film in the sense that it is really very much like the films that came along 20 years right up by two. And so on and also very much like seitan films of Antonioni. But anyway I don't think that this is a distinguished fellow as being cinematography and yet I would say the last half of the film anyway. It is something that is seen again for the third time. And it's done in the name of the profound comments about
the human situation and also as of course all of our important from the point of view of the period. I mean one of the problems this raises in any kind of artistic criticism of cinema criticism is this question of what an artist has to say that is important and in this scene they ran. As to some extent in the film just before this in 1939 the grand illusion which is about. These two films for some reason or another as if he had some instinctive feeling of history. That he saw what was coming and saw exactly what was the sickness in Europe and especially of France. This film was made released anyway 1940 and otherwise it was my going to just before collapse of when it was invented by the Germans which
as you know was a shameful and. Will his shower kind of vent because it showed that some of the action of something was rotten there. If you compare the way that the English. Reacted to the way the French reacted and the French in fact of star knockout Nava this son of a hadn't been for the golf I don't know what would have happened in France but the god was the rag. Whatever you think about his politics he is on a grand scale and he even if he thinks he is Joe out of Iraq and even if he thinks he is some sort of a Messiah The fact is that the goal has almost single handed given its dignity and almost allowed France to exist as a nation sense. Not horrible collapse in 1940. But anywise this was Night of the climax. The most obvious thing about the film is that so many obvious things but the perhaps the most profound thing is. That there was a tab of the staff and
things between the reality of life and the. First problems in which life is expressed. That's why the title is such a good title the rules of the game. Because as you know a game is something that is artificial and which poses an artificial kind of form on rife. And what you see here is that this kind of upper class drive is one in which everything that happens on the surface turns out to be contradictory to what is happening underneath. For instance you have that modeling business right. Going on for 20 minutes half an hour continuing the gamekeeper is whom he was jealous of because of his ride and then also all sorts of other things happen and people got to. Knock each other data and challenge each other the villains out and
yet the prodding keeps on going. Now what is the reality and across in a very profound sense. The reality could be said to also be the game. And in fact in this kind of society that we're in fact at the very end when the gas there has been an accident and that shot him and it was a great thing and so on and then when one of the guest says to the others this is a new definition of an actor then. Then of course you realize that in the sense both of these things. The essential theme of the film The Sensual of Fado and also content is obviously the plot about the life of the servants and the life of the Masters. This is something that goes back to glass and especially French comedy and the Arran
and the Marriage of Figaro which it begins with some think a quotation from the. 18th century especially saw that the savants rive rise a kind of a parody of the life of the masses and at the same time it also was much more real in a non-game sense than the life of the masses if you and I was throughout the film The seventh at once completely is a broaden that to that masses. Out of the same time however they are the ones that really face what's going on and really introduce all of what we would call reality into the film included in the actual final killing of one of the gassed by a servant. And the great scene of the hunt. You know the rabbit hunt in the pheasant hot. Perhaps this is what I think is the quality that makes this a great film in spite of its having a great number of weaknesses.
And that is that venom saw beneath the surface of what is commonly accepted in other words the picture that he gave of the hunt of rabbits and pheasants. You see these I've never seen anything before that showed this there was a feeble attempt to show the horrors of blood sport right here in the hour. It's more than just when the rabbit suddenly stopped dead when he's hit by the bullet. It's also the entire way in which it's made part of the theme of the movie it's not dragged in just as I and this pacifist Adam a lot of us out of and out. In fact this is the central simile of the entire film. I'm at the end there it's no accident that the gamekeeper are the friend of the other fellow the Pasha says that the man when he was hit by the butt of the just like a shot rabbit and I think this is what makes this a very great film. This ability to get below the surface
of the sensible action and the sensible relations of people really in that last half hour when everything is happening so fast this is also a Pocho now of the oral tradition of comedy in which you had a sadly increasingly Shand done with Amanda style and with all things had in the most complicated right in this case you have not in one sense but in another sense you have it all done in an extremely realistic and extremely non-formal way in fact you have an effect of total confusion. To me anyway the confusion did not become just simply boring as it would be in real life I suppose but it seemed to have some sort of a thread. And then really leads to a great deal of much later films. The fact this is not in 1940 is quite extraordinary if any of you have seen the fences to follow shoot the pianist. That film would be almost impossible to imagine without
without this film I mean I would think was very much the way that Eisenstein's films ought to Griffith films and otherwise it's carried out the logic of this film to the extreme and putting that into more conscious form dolling me is quite interesting to compare the two because doddering always comment a satirical comment and this one is on their life time and rather upper class life. And in many writers donning is a much more from a purely technical point of view it is certainly much livelier and more an inventive film than the last one is. But it seems to me that the great difference is. That John was just kidding that he wasn't serious about it as random Ra
Ra was trying to make statement out of I didn't make a lot of fact ramrod was really how or if I buy what he saw when he looked into this society of 1940 this kind of a civilization which had developed in Europe in 1940 he was going to hire if I died and he really expensive in rather clumsy. He really did try to give one a feeling that there was a discrepancy between a service and what was underneath. And one of the ways in which he tried to do it and I think a great failure was his own pot not only that he wasn't a very good actor but also seemed to me that this pot of octopi is about a sentimental moron and rather too much of a nudge in you towards what you should really think about the film. In fact if you try to think of this film with Iraq. It seems to me that it's a much better film. We don't really need them we don't need this good one. There is a price and in a sense bridges the gap between the
Sevens World and the upper class world in other words he sees us savants also as people like the other characters. And this is all true but I don't think that we need this I think that we can get the point anyway we got the point in fact when you saw the marquis the Marquis is really the most fascinating character in that film because on the one hand he has a price and he's not just a color blind to the crowd and sell on a characters journey out of there as a matter of fact he is in love with his wife and he drives a lot of those little mechanical birds and he does have a sense of his own dignity and others and yet whenever he's in contact with the 7 even though he's been privately Ronnie's very good master and so on. It never occurred to him for instance that this game keep your eye when he fires the gamekeeper who does it or them as good humans I want out of caution A-Y is quite right you can have the game if you want to know how the shooting is gas
that's good. But it never occurred to him that maybe that the guy was right from the heart of the question of the difference between the two films. So you hear it after the first half you already begin to get into it and he comes out with something great at the end whereas the time I think the main thing is that Donna just had to write it terribly impassive to me anyway and I think another time with the fact that the Times of his I don't for one minute believe that that magnificent looking Rahman a risk that Pratt would really ask her to marry him even out of all I thought was all of us can thrive. And by the way I discovered because he wrote me a lot of that guy from my review I said in my review if I might bump to go but I thought I don't like this as a professional actor he must be a relativistic crowd I said Well by God it's true. Except that he's not he
Spanish actually in fact not only pointed out there was Joe but he sent me a book that he'd written a novel not a bad novel it was about a fraud and it gives his biography on it on the back of a banner of genuine The Spanish. Not everybody who's played in a few pots of guns with almost the same pot in fact he played the same pot and Juliette of the spirits who saw that. But anyway I don't believe that such uprising would possibly Mallya and then at the end the answer had been as of when he got to come back in the bed with him again you know at the very end. But God is about to be a decent sensitive far out. He's a positive element in her life. And doing the most right I mean he really has no intention of making a life where there were any gotta go to bed with him for the night and then the next morning. Now this is done entirely for the purpose of making the you know the plot and
this is one of the problems without it. I thought it was really very windy and hot boiled and fast moving script and what good technique and so on. But then I began to wonder whether he really was interested in showering. What was going on in the NW and showing the central character of dolling princes. I mean it seemed to me that he was not serious about the darling has a sad time because the whole thing we do says and that too is a rather much of a popular cliche about that that success doesn't bring happiness are also was definitely a case history of a Roman who perhaps the sexual intercourse that was had trouble that might be why she liked to be with his homosexuals but in that case then she wasn't brought out of nothing. In either case I don't think it was a very serious and it is one statement that he made was wise that she was sort of floating along on the side of this kind of
fashionable intellectual kind of ally. That actually she was incapable of experiencing by much. But then after that. Yeah that's that's to stop about now I think. But they'll probably live as the movie goes on you don't get more and more insight into our all our into the society either in fact the whole thing gets more and more vague and tenuous and. Didn't really quite see what it was except a kind of a woman's magazine about about the fact that richer isn't the highest social position and success don't always bring happiness which is June which will prove that but otherwise. I would comment very much about my times. Where was this film it seems to me is a rather brutal film in the right that it slips off the allusion and done. Well so much for Iran as rules of the game. But anyway I
run away to conclude rather than the film that you saw last week when I was in Baltimore and other places in Iraq and in that moment or so I was children the power that you have to begin with I gather from sample of the students to talk to me during my office hours that a number of you either got tired at the end of two hours of laughter or else I actually thought the movie had ended at the hands of two hours Well of course as you probably know it went on for three hours. And I'll tell you now it did. Well two things First of all of those of you who thought it ended at the end of two hours one of you said a very strange ending and because of that I said I was happy as a cause a change a real which I don't think you should be able to take in your stride by this time and I said it ended with the woman bringing the cost of the count out and shown into the place officer and then she seems
to therefore let off her prosecution. But I wonder what happened because what happened was our last IRA where you had you had actually some of the greatest scenes and I hope that not too many of you left. And also I think you should really be able to sit through a movie for three hours. At least I've sat through this movie three times. It's true the first time I saw I was only two and a half hours but the last time was a full version you so on it was three hours. And you should really learn that if you don't know it already that it's pretty long that's true. And some of it is boring and studied it isn't perhaps quite good enough for the whole thing. But sometimes in order to get anything out of a work of rot. There you have to learn to be bright and to be patient. Well now I think this is one of the perhaps 10 best films I've ever seen. It was made then and the last years of the German occupation of Paris which is rather interesting.
Around 1944 which is a period piece going back just about a hundred years to the Paris of 1840. And this was a time when of course I had to write very carefully and that was one of these NIEs of power was that they made this constant picture and rise in a sense escapist and can someone but it seems to me it was actually modeless that they were able to do anything on this level of craftsmanship under such conditions. The direction is not particularly striking. The photography is absolutely beautiful the looping of the actors before the camera the use of close ups and so on is very good but I would say that she felt very sure that direction is the performances that he gets out of the actors and John the Ribeiro and Letty all of them I think as good as they've ever been. Barry of course was Baptist the mem and
brass was Lemaitre the actor. And he was got on stage. How she's been compared to a moon which has subsidiary planets satellites. And she's a moon in the sense that she is actually not colored and not involved and yet she is posh or is a kind of a. Kind of a quad band of a dance of the other men a round head account in the criminal and the ACT and the mean these strong men they sort of revolve around her and she gives her favors to all of them for different reasons and at the end of the commentary thought he was the head that long ago remember at the end of the film the film ends with a bad piece that is about a route desperately going through the crowds trying to find that onstage woman and you're not really very sure whether he does ever find not and in fact the implication is that she
will never give us out completely to anybody but she will give us out somewhat to everybody. Now these but when I say I'm actually surprised especially Pierre brass who's been in a great many films since then and he was certainly extremely good at years of I got active but he's never been anything like he rises as the actor in this film and in the last part of it the scene in the green room the choir between him and the count when he's in the make up of a fellow and black face really is really one of the great themes of all time I think and also his acting in that you have a glimpse of him on a stage when he strangles Desdemona which is really going to great stuff. In fact my own and I have I do is of cinema really violated by this film which is one thing that isn't a right in its favor. So many of the structure was not built by montage and so many of the camera is the set of end
of the action and not the master of the action in fact there is very little from this sort of brilliant technical point of view of interest in this film. The main interest as I said is the close ups and here is where across one way the cost the movies can do things a stage can't do they can suddenly been that camera into focus on the face of an actor and make you see that and everything else to write whereas And he stays performance you can't obviously do that. It's Own very unofficial and stylized. You could call and say an antiquarian ism. It differs from the costume pictures of Hollywood. Not so much in the authenticity of the costumes and details but rather in the authenticity of the acting you know how he would get every physical to tab right in fact they employ scholars and Ephesus to Talum exactly in some difficult picture you know exactly how the ancient Greeks and Romans and Jews and so on and their power. Exactly how that
they looked and blast and what kind of furniture they had inside Iran and then they put it on you had been around a lot of something like that I chopped in hast and values that yeah. So any time has been comes out of guys you have that 20th century right there you can imagine has done anything except shopping has been. Bad to handle these people thing that need to be in the welding 1848 revolution way out of the novels of the novels about Zach. Another interesting thing about it is there is the fact that it is about the world of artifice the well of shower business. Both the main pot and also the acting part. And for some reason or other the movies seem very much able to get a fact from almost a kind of a cannibalistic introverted interest in the medium of artifice itself. I thought of as one of the great things in the movie was that
15 minutes or so out of the memes when they are going through their routines and in fact I've never seen anything that gave me a better sense. Of the tradition of me than the conventional cum area of the art or business between the father and his son. On the stage there. And anyway it's actually charming lovely and it's one of the. Probably I think the greatest romantic purely romantic and theatrical film that's ever been married to cats is a very strong one and it's a really beautiful film. You have been listening to Dwight MacDonald on film in this program. Mr. McDonald has discussed the French film of the 1040s laws rules of the game and children of paradise by Marcel card a these programs were drawn from Mr. MacDonald's lecture series during his recent tenure as distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the
- Dwight MacDonald on film
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- University of Texas
- KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
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- The 1940s: France, Rules of the Game, Children of Paradise
- Series of lectures by Dwight MacDonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
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Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
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