The Rules of the Game (1939)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
The Rules of the Game (1939)

Film Studies

Cinema Classics Seminar:
The Rules of the Game

Tuesday, June 6, 2023, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm  
Instructor: Paul McEwan, Ph.D., Department of Media & Communication and Film Studies, Muhlenberg College

Jean Renoir was once asked how he could describe his comedy of manners The Rules of the Game as “controversial.” He replied that, during a showing in Paris, he watched an audience member ball up a newspaper and try to light it on fire, with the intention of burning down the theater. To Renoir, this seemed to be evidence of a strong reaction.

In fact, the controversy over The Rules of the Game was so strong in 1939 that it was significantly cut, eventually banned, and barely shown for years. The versions we are able to see were all reconstructed later from fragments. This seems odd for a film that is mostly a comedy, following a group of bourgeois friends, their servants, and their romantic and jealous misadventures during a visit to a country house.

But this was a satire offered at exactly the wrong moment, as France teetered on the precipice of war. Renoir was unwilling or unable to turn off his penchant for social critique, and his eye for hypocrisy and empty values was as sharp as ever.

This rich and complicated film is a direct and acknowledged ancestor of multifaceted social portraits like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, and features a first-rate cast, some of whom, like Renoir, were about to flee the country for safer shores. As such, it is an unmissable portrait of a way of life, and a country, on the brink.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Visit the public screening page here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. Please note: the screening associated with this seminar will be open to the public, as well.

If you are unable to attend this seminar on site, you can rent and stream it in our Remote Classroom beginning a week after the event date.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.


Course Information

$25 for members, $35 for non-members


  • Tuesday, June 6 · 6:30 pm

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