François Truffaut called Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game “the film of films.” But when the scathing satire on corrupt French society debuted in 1939 (just as France was about to enter World War II), riots nearly broke out; allegedly, one furious viewer even attempted to set a theater on fire. Now considered to be a masterpiece, the film about a shooting party that ends in murder should inspire a more pleasant reaction from New York audiences when it comes to Anthology Film Archives. Praised for its groundbreaking deep-focus photography, the complex work gives us almost too much to take in as love affairs among the aristocrats and the servants play out in both the foreground and background. Even if you’ve seen it a dozen times, surprises still await.

July 5-6, 2008