My favorite movie of all time, and I don’t mean maybe, is Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, a painfully poignant look at the moral disintegration of France’s upper middle class (what Whit Stillman calls the “urban haute bourgeoisie”) on the eve of World War II. It’s on absolutely every serious movie critic’s list of the most important films as yet unavailable on DVD, so I was highly interested in the following item from the Criterion Collection Web site, which I heard about by way of DVD Journal:
Jean Renoir’s classic The Rules of the Game had been slated for release at the end of 2003, but that will change thanks to the discovery this week of a film element previously thought to be lost. Criterion’s staff had already spent months on the new high-definition master that was to be at the heart of a two-disc special edition when a French lab finally unearthed the fine-grain master of the reconstructed version, one generation closer to the original than anything previously available. A similar discovery delayed the release of another Renoir classic, Grand Illusion, intended to be Criterion’s first release. Expect The Rules of the Game in early 2004.
For those of you who aren’t cinephiles, this is a BFD (i.e., very big deal). Released in 1939, The Rules of the Game was suppressed after the Nazis moved into France, and had to be reconstructed piecemeal after the war. All existing prints (including the one that made it onto the videocassette linked above) are variously crappy-looking, and the Criterion Collection, whose DVD of Grand Illusion looks almost too good to be true, is famously fussy about picture quality. Hence the delay.
I can’t wait, but I don’t mind waiting, if you know what I mean. Nor should you.