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Let’s Talk About Poetic Realism

Adrian Nambo, a former student of mine from Harold Washington College, asked to interview me on the topic of Poetic Realism for a paper he recently wrote for another class. Because our interview nicely coincided with my "Classic French Cinema" posts from last week, I thought I would post our interview here today as a kind of postscript.

AN: There isn’t really much said about Poetic Realism on Wikipedia (which is a horrible way to look things up anyway), but can you elaborate a little more on it?

MGS: Poetic Realism was a movement that existed in France in the early sound era. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, it is a movement that is easy to look at but hard to define. This is because the conventions aren’t as clear cut as those of, say, German Expressionism or Soviet Montage. Nonetheless, I would define the basic characteristics of Poetic Realism as a focus on working class characters and the theme of doomed love, the blending of comedy and tragedy, the use of long shots and long takes, and narratives that function as critiques of society.

AN: French Impressionism is an influence of Poetic Realism correct? What influences did it have on the movement (i.e. what techniques, stylizations, and subject matter did it contribute to Poetic Realism)?

MGS: Both Impressionism and Surrealism, which were avant-garde movements in France during the silent era, were big influences on Poetic Realism. Impressionism used stylized cinematography, optical effects and editing to render reality as it is subjectively perceived by the individual. Directors like Germaine Dulac, Jean Epstein and Dmitri Kirsanoff would use superimpositions and slow dissolves, or would shoot the reflection of a subject in a distorting mirror, in an attempt to show the inner lives of their characters. Surrealism, as in the early films of Luis Bunuel, was all about the aggressive use of bizarre, dreamlike imagery to subvert the conventions of Hollywood-style “narrative continuity” filmmaking.

The phrase “poetic realism” is kind of an oxymoron because we think of poetry as being the opposite of realism. That is to say, poetry uses the figurative language of metaphor to communicate thoughts and feelings that can’t be expressed in a straightforward way. Conversely, when we think of something as being “realistic,” we tend to think of something that is being communicated simply and directly. So the movement of Poetic Realism basically synthesizes these two different approaches. It takes the poetic innovations that we associate with Impressionism and Surrealism and then weds them to the more realistic style of narrative continuity filmmaking. To give you a concrete example of what I mean, Jean Vigo’s masterpiece L’atalante tells the story of the tribulations of a newlywed couple who spend their honeymoon on a barge delivering cargo along the Seine River. The film was shot entirely on location (with a lot of shots done on a real barge) and the milieu depicted is that of working class people. So there is an impressive quality of documentary-like realism to the film. But then there are also these very poetic interludes like the scene where the husband jumps into the river and sees his wife’s image superimposed all around him as he swims underwater. This incredibly poetic scene makes us identify with the husband’s emotions and Vigo does it purely through images.

AN: Some major figures were Pierre Chenal, Marcel Carne, Jacques Feyder and Jean Gremillion. Can you tell me a little bit more about them and their work?

MGS: Marcel Carne is the major director out of the ones you mentioned. He made these great atmospheric crime films in the late 30s like Port of Shadows and Le Jour se Leve (both of which star Jean Gabin). I’ve often said that the reason why the French film critics were the first to identify the new trend of “film noir” in America in the 40s is because they had already kind of done something similar a few years earlier. Carne’s masterpiece though is Children of Paradise from 1945. A lot of critics consider it the apotheosis of Poetic Realism and it’s a movie that everyone needs to see. It’s an epic tale of doomed love set in the world of the 19th century Parisian theater. It was made during the Nazi Occupation and there are all sorts of subversive aspects to the film where the Occupation is being criticized in an oblique, allegorical way. It’s sometimes called the French Gone with the Wind but I think that does it a disservice. It’s a better film than Gone with the Wind! Thankfully, it has just been re-released in theaters this year in a brand new restoration, which will also be released soon on DVD and blu-ray. You can read all about that here: http://criterioncast.com/2012/02/27/janus-films-to-tour-new-4k-restoration-of-marcel-carnes-children-of-paradise/

I don’t think that Chenal, Gremillon or Feyder are very important directors. They belong more to the “tradition of quality” that was much derided by a future generation of French film critics. To me, the other great directors of Poetic Realism are Jean Vigo (as I mentioned), Julien Duvivier, whose masterpiece is Pepe le Moko from 1937, and, of course, Jean Renoir.

AN: I know Jean Renoir is one of your preferred directors, can you tell me about him and his films?

MGS: Renoir is one of the greatest directors of all time. The films he made in the 1930s are just indescribably great: Boudu Saved From Drowning, La Chienne (which translates as “The Bitch”), The Crime of Monsieur Lange, La Bete Humaine and his two supreme masterpieces, Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game. As I wrote about those last two films elsewhere on my blog, “Renoir showed, allegorically but with great generosity of spirit, a Europe that was tragically and inexorably heading towards World War II. His use of long shots and long takes, abetted by an elegantly gliding camera, allow viewers to observe his characters from a critical distance even while the folly of their behavior makes them intensely relatable on a human scale.” He never judges his characters. They’re all flawed and they’re all likable. The Rules of the Game is like a Shakespeare play; it captures timeless truths about the workings of the human heart. I think it will be appreciated as long as movies are watched.

AN: In your class you had said that Jean Renoir is still seen as a Major Figure in film history, what influence has he had on films that filmmakers look back on?

MGS: Well, he’s one of those people whose influence is so pervasive that it’s almost invisible. But, for starters, Orson Welles was very much influenced by Renoir. A lot of the pioneering deep focus cinematography that Welles did in Citizen Kane was inspired by a similar use of depth staging that he saw in The Rules of the Game. And I think the depiction of war in Grand Illusion, in particular the blending of comedy and tragedy to highlight the absurdity of war, was a big influence on all subsequent war movies. Finally, I would just like to say that the adjective “humane” is the one that seems to be applied to Renoir more than any other and I think this is very apt. There are a lot of French movies, even today, that deal with extended families getting together for holidays or weekend-long parties that have this same quality and they seem to me to have their roots very much in The Rules of the Game. See for instance Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours or Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale.

AN: What three films if you can name three, from this period do you think best represent the movement and why?

MGS: L’atalante (1934), The Rules of the Game (1939) and Children of Paradise (1945), for the reasons already cited above.

AN: What are your favorite characteristics and or techniques of this movement and why?

MGS: I love Renoir’s use of long takes and long shots. These are the “mise-en-scene” aesthetics that were famously championed by the critic Andre Bazin. Bazin thought that this style was the opposite of Soviet Montage, where the preference for rapid cutting was more conducive to propaganda and telling viewers what to think. Renoir has a lot going on in the foreground, middle-ground and background of his shots and, because he tends to hold his shots for a while without cutting, it gives viewers the freedom to kind of focus on whatever they want to. For instance, you can choose to look at a character in the foreground or one in the background. It’s like you’re “editing” the film yourself in your mind while watching it. This quality makes his films endlessly re-watchable for me.

AN: How did this movement influence Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave?

MGS: I think the focus on working class characters and the use of plots that revolve around social problems make Poetic Realism an influence on Italian Neorealism. (The key difference though is that the cinematography in Poetic Realism tends to be far more polished than the rawness of what you see in Neorealism.) The French New Wave was more obviously influenced by Poetic Realism. Remember that the directors of the New Wave started off as film critics and so they basically hero-worshipped the likes of Vigo and Renoir and explicitly quoted their films. (Truffaut’s 400 Blows, for instance, would be unthinkable without Vigo’s Zero de Conduite.) I would say that the New Wave directors were most influenced by how intensely cinematic and alive and personal the films of Poetic Realism are.

AN: Can you summarize real quick what Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave are if you haven’t already?

MGS: Italian Neorealism was a movement in post-war Italy where directors attempted to make films that were far more realistic, in terms of form and content, than what had ever been achieved before. The French New Wave was a movement of critics-turned-directors in France in the late 50s and early 60s who used filmmaking as a means of celebrating and critiquing the cinema itself. (That’s a bit reductive and simplistic but you said to “summarize real quick!”)

AN: Can characteristics of this movement be seen in film today? If so can you name a couple of modern films to reference from after that time period.

MGS: There isn’t much around today that looks like Poetic Realism. But, in addition to the French films I already cited above, I think that American directors as diverse as Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) and Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep With Anger) have been specifically influenced by Jean Renoir.

AN: Is there anything you would like to add that I may have forgotten to ask or mention?

MGS: See the restored Children of Paradise as soon as you have the chance. You will thank me for it.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

31 responses to “Let’s Talk About Poetic Realism

  • david

    Great interview,I have one more question,were Jean Renoir’s films influenced by his father’s paintings?or let me paraphrase it,is there any connection between Impressionist style and poetic realism?

    • michaelgloversmith

      Jean Renoir said that his father was his single biggest influence on his work. I know he goes into detail about this in his memoir Renoir, My Father but I have not yet read it. It’s on my to do list!

      But, yeah, the Renoir films that show the biggest influence of Impressionist painting are the color films he made in the 1950s – especially the great French Cancan.

  • mpohappiness

    Really informative, this helped me get the last bit of info I needed for my exam notes, thank you!

  • wafizainal

    Reblogged this on Wafi Zainal ♕ and commented:
    162mc. Research on the Film Movement for my film

  • Stacy Strunck

    I was interested in the foreshadowing of World War II in the film. It is clear that Europe is going into World War II and the upper class is denying it. They have come to the country estate to play and pretend that the Nazis don’t exist. It seems to them that life is all a game. The film begins with the aviator Andre Jurieu who has completed a heroic trans-Atlantic solo flight. Charles Lindbergh, who is an actual hero all over the world, had actually completed this flight ten years earlier. However, Lindbergh was also known to be a Nazi sympathizer. Renoir was against the Nazis. It seems as though Andre is a parody of Lindbergh. Another character who does not play by the rules is the Jewish aristocrat, Robert. The ending shot of Robert’s face clearly shows what is coming. At this time the persecution and the murders of the Jews were beginning. When the guests kill the rabbits and the birds, it seems to be a foreshadowing of the murder at the end. Does this possibly foreshadow the mass killing of the Jews? The film was banned by the occupying Nazis who clearly understand the underlying realistic story.

  • Herr Lohmann (Andrew Moran)

    Renoir seems, very much to me anyhow, the Shakespeare of cinema. One of the things I thought was so cool about his style was how much it reminded me of one of the bard’s tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth. Having been in a Shakespeare club throughout high-school and reading almost every one of his plays, I’m by no means an expert on the man’s work but do know a thing or two. Shakespeare would regularly mix tragedy into overall tragic plays. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, the comedy of the opening scenes, portraying a fight between the Capulet and Montague servants is juxtaposed with the later fighting scenes between Romeo, Mercutio, and Tybalt. This Juxtaposition is very similar to Renoir’s choice of contrasting the scenes in which Schumacher attempts to gun down Marceau for messing around with Lisette, and the scene that follows in which Andre, the pilot, is gunned down by Schumacher mistaking him for Octave trying to run away with Lisette(who is actually Christine in Lisette’s cloak). That ironic twist is also reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Andre both die because of a misunderstanding. All in all, Renoir is a great film-maker and it would not surprise me in the slightest if his style or at the very least this specific movie(rules of the game) was influenced by Shakespeare.

  • Dave

    What are the conventions of Poetry Realism that are shared within all the movies of the movement?

  • The Evolution of Theories in Cinema | Producers Blog

    […] M. (2012). Let’s Talk About Poetic Realism. [online] White City Cinema. Available at: https://whitecitycinema.com/2012/05/18/lets-talk-about-poetic-realism/ [Accessed 29 Apr. […]

  • A.J. Schlesinger

    Renoir shows us the oxymoron of Poetic Realism in The Rules of the Game with his characters. Every character in his film is just going with the flow with reality. Everybody cheats, everybody lies (even the people that are in the lower class but cater to upper), everybody hates everybody at heart except for two characters, Andre and Jackie. Andre and Jackie do not play by the rules of high society, they are true, honest about their feelings (as seen by Andre telling Jackie he does not love her) and this is shown to us by the two of them not being able to kill an animal in the hunt. And this is why Andre had to die in the end. He’s doesn’t belong in this cruel world, and the world decided to reject him.

  • Peter Aziz

    The Rules of the Game is a film that is very different from what we have seen so far not just from a plot standpoint but from the whole film aspect. The Rules of the Game deals with the genre of poetic realism. Poetic realism is a movement originated in France during the time of the early sound era and it has integrated innovative visual style into traditional realism. Poetic realism also combines the topics of comedy and tragedy into one and that is exactly what the Rule of the Game did. At first the story is a bit confusing character wise because you are introduced to multiple characters but you later see how each character ties into one another. The whole love aspect of Rules of the Game is that almost everyone within the house is having some sort of affair. Everyone within the house also lies to their own friends and “loved” ones. Marriage also doesn’t seem to be something everyone in the house takes seriously because you have married couples cheating on one another. The only character that is seen to be honest and actually in love is Andre but by the end of the film is the only character killed off. On the other hand one of the most dishonest characters such as Christine gets to live on. I believe the meaning of Andre’s death is that Renoir is trying to show that people can be very deceiving and cruel but that is all a part of the game and for anyone who can’t keep up with the rules is incapable of surviving the game. Throughout the film you also see many of the different film techniques we learned in class such as montage, long shots, and long takes. An example of montage would be the hunting scene in which we see all the animals get killed one after another. A long shot is the scene we talked about in class with Robert talking to Andre while Lisette is in the background in the hall. A long take also presented in the film is when Lisette is talking to Shumacher in the basement area while Marceau is trying to sneak away. Overall Rules of the Game is definitely a great film it’s just too bad Andre lost his life for someone who wasn’t even worth loving.

  • Joey Crocilla

    The Rules of the Game was a very good film. The poetic realism that Renoir uses is very good. It shows how the upper and middle and upper class interact with each other. They all represent society. His use of long shots and long takes were very well filmed. It’s interesting to see how the characters like another one like an affair.You see how Andre is in love with Christine who’s married to Robert. Jackie who is in love in Andre are the two characters that are incapable of lying. They’re only two that don’t fit in with the rest. A lot of the film shows how people care about own image and kind of selfish. Renoir was also showing how the lines of life and playtime are the same. The film had great camera work and movement. Good film to watch. Good Interview on poetic realism and the aspects of it.

  • Cody Bemis

    The Rules Of The Game is a film that really showcases the key aspects of Poetic Realism. From the social criticisms to the great combination of comedy and tragedy. We see the film criticize essentially the “rules of the game.” They show how the societal rules differ based on social class. An example of this is after the characters finish putting on their performance we see each character grab someone else’s husband or wife and go in separate rooms. Which in lower classes back then and today is a big no, but in the upper classes of that time that rule tended to be interpreted differently in both society and the movie. The Rules Of The Game does an excellent job of finding a good equilibrium between comedy and tragedy and is done excellently through the character Marceau. He constantly brings comedic relief throughout the film not only through his one-liners but also through his physical comedy. We see the tragedy side of the film towards the end when we see Octave and Christine confess their love for each other only to see Octave not go through with his plan to run away and instead have Andre go for her. Then we see the tragic death of Andre at the hands of Shumacker, as he goes to find Christine The Rules Of The Game showcased not only what makes Poetic Realism so great, it also showed the condition of society and what was yet to come at the time this film was made which was right before World War Two.

  • Dylan Berliant

    In Jean Renoir’s film The Rules of the Game, Renoir is able to compile many elements of the Poetic Realism genre movement into a work of art. One example I noticed is that Renoir uses long shots and long takes, especially during hallway scenes. This way of film making allows the audience to have a more “realistic” experience because they can choose who and what to focus on during these shots/takes. Quick pans are also used throughout the mansion to create a realistic approach when switching to different characters and rooms. This film also combines the elements of comedy and tragedy, which is another trait of the poetic realism genre. Since all of the characters end up cheating on each-other, it creates a sense of tragedy, but in addition, creates a sense of comedy because the audience knows that characters know others are cheating on them, but the characters themselves don’t. The feeling of knowing something certain characters don’t know creates a funny situation that Renoir executes greatly during scenes (such as the scene where Christine de la Chesnaye finds out she is getting cheated on, but acts like she knew it all along). Renoir also uses the concept of infidelity and money to comment on social situations that real people went through, and continue to go through today. The genre of the Soviet Montage Era is also used during the game hunt scene. The camera quickly cuts between the characters shooting, and the rabbits and other game getting killed. Eventually the camera only focuses on the rabbits. This creates a very powerful effect for the audience. In conclusion, Renoir’s The Rules of The Game is a very well done example of the Poetic Realism movement. The different techniques used in the film allows it to stand out, and truly be the prime example of a Poetic Realism film.

  • John Youkhana

    The Rules of the Game was a film that exhibited poetic realism really well. Jean Renoir did a great job on showing the pettiness and selfishness of the main characters and how disconnected from reality they really are. All of the characters in the film lie as if it’s second nature. The most genuine and honest character was Andre who ends up getting killed, which I thought was very poetic. I liked the film’s criticisms towards the attitude of the rich and the idea of marriage and relationships. I overall liked the film and thought it was a great way to show poetic realism.

  • Josh Melfi

    I found Rules of the Game to be comparable to Game of Thrones, as when you play the game of thrones, you die; but in the Rules of the Game, if you don’t lie you also end up dead. Christine claims that telling lies are such a heavy weight to bear, yet she seems to lie to every single person in the film including herself. She seems to throw the word ‘love’ around like a middle school girl who just kissed her first boy, and is now in love with anyone who will give her the time of day. Andre does not follow the rule, he even admits to Jackie that he does not love her; yet, like Shakespeare’s Romeo, ends up dying for love. All the other characters lie to them selves about the going-ons of the world. The impending World War 2 is mentioned, but denounced as improbable. Long shots let the eyes travel over the expansive and lavished rooms picking and choosing what to see, but only seem to create distractions for the attendees. Poetic Realism is shown in that while smitten with love, no one ends up happy in the end. A marriage is left in shambles, another is known to be failing, and a man is dead. Yet no one seems to mourn the dead, as they are all too preoccupied with themselves to see beyond their finery.

  • Miles Friend

    The Rules of the Game is a film that exploited beautiful poetic realism, and utilized it to show the difference in what the viewer can decide to focus on within the confines of the frame. There are many times that Renoir uses wide shots that have no specific subject to really focus on; there are multiple stories within each frame happening all at once. One scene in particular that proves this is the wonderfully crafted moments when Julien Carette enters to announce the death of André but this is seen in the background, and closer up is the two men talking about how much they like Octave, even though he just stole André’s wife. This sort of juxtaposition is why Renoir’s film is highly entertaining both dramatically and comically.

  • Ewelina Roszko

    In Jean Renoir’s film “The Rules of the Game” is an excellent example of poetic realism. The film incorporated all the factors that are in poetic realism like: long takes and long shots, social criticism, comedy and tragedy. Throughout the course of the film we see comedy and tragedy as the story plot line, where you have a group of people all having affairs with one another and then death at the end. We see social criticism also throughout the course of the film on how everyone lies to each other but the only person who is able to tell the truth is Andre and he also gets killed at the end. Long shots and long takes are dispersed throughout from showing the whole room to see the amount of people there to action scenes with long takes.

  • Thao Tran

    “The Rule of the Game”, directed by Jean Renoir, has well exemplified poetic realism movement as it portrayed social critiques via the usage of long shots and long takes about “the theme of doomed love, the blending of comedy and tragedy”. The movie is about the complex love lines of many different characters, like the love triangles between Andree, Chistine, and La Chesnaye, or Christine, La Chesnaye, Genevieve, or the one among those lower class characters: Marceau, Lisette, Schumacher. Through these bundle of relationships, Renoir aims to criticize the “rule” of the society that shape people, but not his characters because they are somewhat victims of such rules. At the very end, after Andree was shot down, Jackie- Christine niece is the only one that mourns for him. Even Christine, who is once have something for Andree, calmly told Jackie that everybody was looking. Obviously, she is superficial, and so do most of the characters in the movie. However, that is how the society rules them out, makes them become cool toward one death. Furthermore, the usage of long shots and long takes is genuinely applied on this movie. For instance, the scene at the hall in night time where characters go in and out from room to room, or the scene at the end in which Le Chesnaye and Andree are talking in the foreground while Lisette is in the middle ground trying to eavesdrop then then Octave comes into the scene at the back ground and approaches her. I think that this method of filming is interesting since we- the audience can choose to see what we want to see.

    • Tyler lauer

      The movie “The Rules of the game” is a great example of poetic realism. Between the wealthy upper class, Jean Renoir provides both a great comedy and the not so much tragedy of a hero. By using long takes and long shots on scenes, Jean is able to give the viewers a chance to enjoy the chaos and tune in to any situation, for example, where Schumacher is chasing Marceua around the house while the other guests are fighting and stealing others wives. Jean explores the broken connection between the upper class and contrasts it with Andre, the less wealthy and honest. As the house makes improper decisions, the only person willing to go against the norm of the upper class is Andre, where he refuses to leave or do anything with Christine before discussing it with Robert. Jean also shows humanism with Ovtave when he realizes that his happiness coincides with what is proper and decides to let Christine be with Andre because he can financially support her. However, through many long shots and long takes, Jean still makes you feel connected with the movie and the viewer knows what is happening with each situation occurring in that shot. When Andre is killed you see everyone yet you know the significance of Andre, nothing. Jean shows a sad moral disconnection, while throwing in silly one-liners and situations to have the viewers laughing as the sadness takes place. Although this is not my preferred genre, Jean does a great job in defining poetic realism within the film.

  • georgia khamo

    Poetic Realism was a movement that originated in France(1930-1939), during the early sound era that integrated innovative visual styles into traditional movie realism. It combined the use of long shots and takes, social criticism, and fused the theme of comedy and tragedy into one beautiful masterpiece. The Rules of The Game (Jean Renoir,1939) is a classic example of a poetic realism film. The film is one big twisted drunken love story that it keep you wondering who will screw who next. One of my favorite parts of the film was when Shumacher was chasing Marceau with his gun for messing around with his wife. At moments you feel bad for Octave because he was the only character to be sincere with his true feelings, but was always overlooked. The tragedy of the film was when the “Romeo” of the film, Andre, dies after his attempt to go after his true love. One of the things that I thought was a success with the film and also establishes the use of poetic realism was the long takes, Renoir doesnt have immediate cuts after each shot, he lets you take in the surroundings and the characters. For example, when Andre and Robert are bonding over their friend Octave and their common love interest Christine, you can see in the background Lisette sneaking behind them listening to the conversation and Octave behind her walking in the hallway. Renoir gives you the ability to see whatever you feel like looking at. Another theme of poetic realism is the use of long shots. For example, when Octave is outside with Christine talking about how her father was a great conductor, the camera does a long shot and you capture Octave standing on the balcony acting and looking like a conductor. Another use of a effective long shot was when Andre dies and Robert is standing on-top of the stairs and announces to everyone Andre died in a tragic accident. The only montage of the film that I can recall is the rabbit hunting scene, where it was a complete and total bloodbath for the poor rabbits. In the film you can see the entire house and grounds and you really get to pay attention to whatever you want. With the amount of comedy in the film like Andre and Robert fighting over Christine than smoking like they have a bromance was hilarious. Also, many of the characters had a lot of dialogue in the film which we havent seen that much before. Each character had their own issues and love interests going on that you trying so hard to keep up with all the action. Lastly, I really enjoyed this film it made me laugh a lot and it made you want to go to an event like that.

  • Ethan Herrera

    In the film ” The Rules of the Game” directed by Jean Renoir we are given a setting where the working class and the upper class combine there stories within a household with a love story between many characters as well as including comedy. Though what is so great about the film is although we acknowledge the social class of each character we are put into a perspective as if we belonged with Jean Renoir’s great directing. The use of long shots and long takes really puts us in the setting of the story as we watch along we are given these establishing shots as well as long shots to give us the feeling as if we are also part of the story. Although during the long shots it might seem a bit too much with all the background objects and movements we still tend to know who the main focus is and what’s great about that is that we never get lost in the film. I thought what really captured my attention was the fact that as the movie began to end these characters were given one last chance to find love but as it begins to come unravel we are given disappointment. Like Shakespeare we are given a character named André who begins to lose himself in “love”, and at the end of the film every single characters story has somewhat of an utterly disappointment, but at the same time are so lost in reality that André’s death doesn’t mean anything. Just like when the seen of the rabbits being shot at it was a “survival of the fittest” situation and for the most part most of the characters were glad it just wasn’t them who died.

  • Danny Panettieri

    Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game is a production of poetic realism, and features the key aspects of poetic realism films. Such as combination of comedy and tragedy, use of long shots and takes, and social criticism. What makes The Rule of the Game a great film of poetic realism is that it effectively delivers on all these elements. This film features many incredibly dishonest people, and even the nicest one of them all ends up getting killed, and they lie about his death too! They lie with one another, and cheat with one another. This film puts long takes and shots to good use throughout the story, which can also help the viewer take more in at once, essentially the opposite of films from the Soviet Montage Era that we’ve seen earlier in the course. Anyways, I enjoyed watching The Rules of the Game, as it was quite a unique film unlike the films I’ve seen.

  • Sean Crowe

    The Rules Of The Game is a film by Jean Renoir that showed just how creative the idea of poetic realism can be. Renoir utalizes long shots and long takes within the film to bring more focus toward the true emotion of those scenes. The characters in the film seemed so selfish and distant from reality. They all lied in a way that was very second nature of them, as if it was a part of their personality and within their circle of social norms. I really liked the idea of Andre never telling a lie while everyone else around him would lie all the time. This detail definitely showed one of the major reasons as to why Andre had to die in the end. I thought It was a very poetic way to kill a character and I liked that a lot. I also liked the way the film shows criticism toward the rich and how the characters define marriage and relationships. I thought the film was a very good example of poetic realism and a very good film in itself.

  • Andrew

    The last film we saw “The Rules of the Game” directed by Jean Renoir, is a film that takes place in France during world war 2 and was made during the poetic realism era of film. In this movie, we see the wealthy class escape society and go to a large mansion, to drink, party and fool around. Now in the title of the movie The Rules of the Game” refers to the the rules rules in society and what it takes to be successful. I find the idea that Rules of the game is about rich people and how they live in society. It’s not if you ask me. Its about society but show that their are no rules in society because they leave society to go stay in this mansion. Once you leave society shouldn’t all rules in that society cease to exist. They go this mansion and just fool around. They sleep with anyone they want and become simply free to do what they please. Rules are restrictions and while they live in this mansion there are no rules. Simply do what you want. Tragically the one thing for someone to successful in the game is to lie and being cold-hearted. We see this multiple times with Christina. We see it when she is walking away with three girls after Andre was killed and one of the ladies is crying so Christina comes up and says “Stop people are watching”. A man Christina said she loved is just killed and she only cares about is not being seen caring. That’s what I find so hard to understand about this movie. There are rules but they don’t act like there are. They rebel by being this way, this aristocratic life style is the only thing they know and the only one who does follow these rules is Andre and he dies. This is all just an idea but maybe the reason Andre died was because he followed the rules. He tried to be the romantic which is a normal thing in society but in the end he died because he stuck to his normal life style, he stuck to his emotions.Maybe the only rule in the game is to be anything except yourself.

  • Altan Naranbaatar

    Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the game” is an example of poetic realism. The film focuses on working class characters, it has theme of doomed love, and blends comedy and tragedy in the plot. The film is known for it’s long shots and long takes, for it gives viewers the freedom to focus on what they want. There is a lot of action and chaos going on in the film, and these film techniques benefits the audience. The viewers can feel like they’re editing the film themselves in their mind as they watch it. In a way viewers can have a different perspective of the film as they watch it or if they re-watch the film. Renoir has a lot going on in the foreground, middle ground, and the background of he’s shots. The focus on the working class characters, and use of plots that resolve around social problems makes the film relatable and versatile. The narratives function as critiques of society for it’s saying people are not perfect. People lie and they do bad things, but it is human nature. Everybody goes through drama and hardships, and in the film it portrays this. The film has a flavor of Shakespeare, for the film captures the timeless truths about the working of the human heart. The film itself is in a way a metaphor, for the actual game the characters play is actually related to the affairs that they have and the need of love. The characters run around in the film due to their intentions and lust for one another. In the end all of the affairs pretty much end bad, this is saying people can do bad things and hurt others. The film consisted of poetic innovations and used techniques like poetic realism to tell a story in a metaphoric way. .

  • Liz Brotsos

    Rules of the Game, directed by Jean Renoir in 1939, depicts the paradoxical affect of poetic realism. Although poetry tugs on peoples heart strings, when combined with realism, it becomes an integrated visual style of traditional realism. Renoir was very in touch with the psychology of human behavior, regardless of their class. In this film both the upper class characters and their so called house staff are highly flawed. They have no problem sleeping around with one another and lying about it. Almost every character is dishonest and is fine living that way. There are two characters who are genuine and honest. Andre, who is in love with Christine and Jackie, a very minor yet poignant character whom is honest too and loves Andre. Andre tells Jackie he finds her attractive but he doesn’t love her. In that scene, we are able to see the bittersweet feel of poetic realism. Christine for example, adores many men from Andre, to her husband Robert and even entertains running off with Octave, played by Renoir himself. Although this film had it’s comedic moments, in my eyes, it was filled with an underlying sadness because the characters are so disloyal and their actions result in chaos and even death for Andre. This film used both long shots and long takes and had one montage scene when the characters are hunting. Overall, Renoir was highly creative in portraying human beings desire for being loved and loving others. He also makes it easy for the viewer to see how captivated and confused the characters are of what the definition of real love is versus lust.

  • Syd Denila

    The films “Rules of the Game” by Jean Renoir is the perfect example to show what poetic realism is. Poetic Realism was more like a movement back in France, “it synthesizes the approach of surrealism and matches it with the more realistic style of narrative continuity.” In the film The Rules of the Game we saw how Renoir utilizes long shots and long takes to elaborate the story. He also did a great job in showing how the characters lifestyle affect the way they act in the film. For example Robert’s character was this charismatic man who likes to collect things, and didn’t mind being the face of everything from putting up a show for his guest to announcing the death of another character. We noticed how most of the characters had affairs even the working class. We see Lisette a working class woman married to the groundskeeper was “falling in love” with another man. It shows how their bosses mirrors the way they act to the people who work for them. I loved how Renoir played the Octave, he was pretty much the middle man of all the main characters. I also love how played it so well that you didn’t expect him stealing the girl of his friends dream. Which was Andre Juriex, In our discussion we all believed that Andre and another character Jackie were probably the only one’s who didn’t play by the rules. I love how Renoir cast an amazing group of actors the emotion they show and how they acted brought the film into life. I also liked the combination of love, tragedy and comedy. All in all the Rules of the game is such an amazing film that portrayed poetic realism due to the fact that even though the film doesn’t give a straight forward meaning of whats happening the film still gives a deeper meaning beyond it.

  • Dimitri Khamo

    Originating in France from the year (1930-1939) Poetic Realism was a movement that gave contemporary observable types of styles into conventional movie realism. This all happened in the process of sound. Poetic realism ties the themes of comedy and tragedy. Also, it captures the use of long shots and also long takes. For example, a use of a long shot occurred when Octave mimicked Christine’s father as a conductor. Also, a long shot occurred when Robert announced the death of Andre to the rest of the guest. The film The Rules of the The Game directed by (Jean Renoir, 1939) is a front runner example of poetic realism. The film captures your attention because the surrounding environment captivates your attention by letting the viewer choose what they want to view as a watcher. For example, when Octave is trying to sneak past Robert and Andre talking to give Christine her coat so they can leave together. As a viewer you can see multiple people moving in the background while you are paying attention to Robert and Andre’s conversation. In one of the scenes, there was a lot of hunting going on resulting in a killing montage. The film in the long run made you laugh with the character’s crazy love stories and insane party that was being hosted by Robert. But, in the end Andre dies tragically by a gunshot from Shumacher mistaking him for Octave. This left the viewers feeling that true love was never lived out to its full potential. In my honest opinion, I had mixed feelings about this film to say the very least. I really like the fact that Andre flew solo just to meet the love of his life hoping that she would be waiting for him when he touched down. But when he arrived Christine was nowhere to be seen resulting in Andre yelling on the live radio at her which instead it should have been a warm welcoming message. He has guts I must say. I loved the use of dialogue that every character portrayed reflecting their own little stories to the scene. In the long run, this film gave me a few good laughs.

  • Jacob Allen Jones

    I agree with the fact that Jean Renoir is cinema’s Shakespeare after watching Rules of the Game. He plays with love and tragedy, which is what Shakespeare incorporated in his stories for example, Caesar and also Romeo and Juliet. I love that everyone except Andre’ Jurieux lie throughout the film and that everyone seems to play along with it when the cast is at the Chateau. Andre’ is the only person who doesn’t play by the rules of the game of lies and it ultimately kills him in the end. The poetic realism of comedy and tragedy truly brings out the Shakespearean spirit.

  • Les Enfants du Paradis: Four men and one woman | Foxesden

    […] It is a poetic realist film, and one of the greatest of this cinematic style. Not sure what that means? Michael G. Smith has an easy-to-understand and comprehensive explanation of poetic realism here. […]

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