The Menu Is an Empty-Calorie Eat the Rich Embarrassment
When Jean Renoir was conceiving his legendary 1939 tragicomedy The Rules of the Game, he stuck to one guiding principle: it would have no heroes or villains. The film, which went on to inspire everything from Robert Altmans Gosford Park to Ingmar Bergmans Smiles of a Summer Night, treats each of its hedonistic bourgeois characters and toiling workers with gentle compassion even as it sounds the alarm on Europes imminent slide into fascism. Its a social satire couched in a farce, and it works: the farce is funny, the satire sharp, and the target truerather than invent ghouls just to call them ghoulish, Renoir slyly considers how a culture of violent individualism might deliver all of its participants to ruin.
Last years preponderance of alleged cinematic class critiques could stand to take a page from his book. Late-fall favorites like Glass Onion and Triangle of Sadness harnessed the undeniable thrill of watching the elite make fools of themselves but in the end amounted to little more than soft-target fluff that allowed everyone in the audience to pat themselves on the back for snickering at the bad guys. The vibe was cynical and obvious rather than sharp and illuminating, and no film dared consider what in the culture beyond the personal flaws of its affluent court jesters might be worth condemning.
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