July 2012

I have been reading Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn. It is set in the mid nineteen fifties in southern Ireland and in Brooklyn. The story is the story of Irish emigration, at a time when the economy is stagnant and jobs difficult to find. Eilis Lacey’s brothers are in Birmingham in England. Her sister, Rose, does have a good job, but Eilis can only find a Sunday job in a local shop.

Her emigration to Brooklyn, where opportunities are better, is mediated though her sister Rose and the brief return of an Irish priest from Brooklyn. Father Flood organises her employment with Bartocci’s in Brooklyn which enables her to get immigration papers. Her sister has one of the few good jobs around, but by sending her sister away, she is condemning herself to remaining close to their mother and giving up chances to marry.


We recently watched La Règle du Jeu at the local film club. Francois Truffaut, who like other nouvelle vague directors was  inspired and influenced by Renoir, called La Règle du Jeu ‘le credo des cinéphiles, le film des films’. I interpret this to mean something like the ‘manifesto’ of film making. But if it is, it is a difficult manifesto to interpret and it is difficult to be sure of Renoir’s intentions when he made the film.

Filming on La Règle du Jeu started in mid-February 1939, and was completed by the end of March. The film opened in Paris on July 8th 1939, originally in a 94 minute version. Although some critics recognised its importance, it was not well received by the public and was a commercial failure. Renoir re-edited it down to 81 minutes, but it was banned by the French government and subsequently by the Nazis. The original negatives were destroyed in an allied bombing raid in 1942, and the film had to be re-assembled after the war. The reconstruction, completed with Renoir’s help in 1958 by Jean Gaborit and Jacques Durand, was shown in 1959 at the Venice Film Festival. At 106 minutes it is longer than the version which opened in 1939. This is the version we have today.