Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mixed review

Turner Classic Movies is showing Rules of the Game, which I've never seen before. Naturally I went to Rotten Tomatoes to check out the reviews, and thence to the New York Times' original review, by Howard Thompson.

Boy, is it screwed up. They appear, in fact, to have stuck somebody else's review on Thompson's (or vice versa). The effect is very strange. Here are the first two paragraphs:
Exactly what Jean Renoir had in mind when he wrote, performed in, and directed The Rules of the Game, Saturday's French import at the Fifth Avenue Playhouse, is anybody's guess. This is the same M. Renoir, if you please, who gave us those notable imports, Grand Illusion and The Human Beast, not to mention The Southerner, from Hollywood. The new arrival, however, is really one for the buzzards.

Here we have a baffling mixture of stale sophistication, coy symbolism, and galloping slapstick that almost defies analysis. The distributors claim that the picture, made shortly before the war, was banned by the Occupation on grounds of immorality. Rest assured it wasn't immortality. And there's nothing particularly sizzling in this account of some addle-headed lounge lizards tangling up their amours on a weekend house party in the country.
We can agree, can't we, that "really one for the buzzards" is not a compliment? At least in Western culture?

But check out the fifth and sixth paragraphs:

Twenty-two years after The Rules of the Game was made, and eleven years after a mutilated print was exhibited here, the full version of Jean Renoir's study of the manners and mores of prewar France opened yesterday at the Eighth Street Playhouse and completely justifies its European reputation.

This remarkable film was photographed in the Sologne valley, where a year later French armies were fighting their last battles against the Nazis. While the film was in production, Hitler's troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The film opened in Paris while the city was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the French Revolution.

How do you make a mistake like that? And whose review is stuck on Thompson's (or vice versa)? Ah, sweet mystery of life &etc.

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