Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




Gosford Park (Robert Altman) 2001 

Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game is one of the greatest of all films, and there’s little getting around that. Robert Altman, one of the best American directors working today, has created with his Gosford Park an extended homage to Renoir’s film. Smudging a few details, it almost directly borrows Rules narrative, and the setting, give or take a few years and miles, feels identical. Of course, it would be a bit too hopeful to expect Gosford to be a better film than Rules, and unfortunately it isn’t. Most of the extensions that the film has made in its homage are in the quantity of cast members (that numbers surely must hover around 30) and running time (Altman’s movie is almost half an hour longer than Renoir’s) instead of quality of the satire. Surely, Gosford favors the lower classes more than Renoir’s film, which was more evenhanded in its pessimism (the servants feel much nicer than the rich in Gosford) and smarter in its application of wit. 

Still, there is plenty to like about Gosford Park. The film’s structure, even if it’s stolen, is solid. The acting is uniformly excellent, without being stagy or histrionic. Several women, including Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Kelly Macdonald, Emily Watson, and Kristen Scott-Thomas stand out among the cast. Singling out individuals here for acting awards here must seem somewhat arbitrary due to the strength of the ensemble. Among the men, Clive Owen and Jeremy Northam make strong impressions, the latter singing several songs that help create the excellent soundtrack. Altman’s direction is solid and hews closely to Renoir’s. Like in Rules, the only real montage occurs during a game shooting scene (though Altman’s lacks half of the savagery of Renoir’s), and the remainder of the movie feels like a spruced up film d’art. Long takes that highlight the film’s interconnected physical spaces are the rule, and many shots are viewed through a door or window frame, suggesting a proscenium. The mise-en-scene is impeccable and busy, with nearly every shot showing one of the estate’s ever-present servants encroaching upon their employers’ personal space, so the tableau is not at all distracting. 

Gosford Park’s plot occasionally shows some teeth, but overall, it feels far safer and warmer than Renoir’s cynical work did. There’s little of the revolutionary spirit that fueled Rules here, and the events in Gosford mansion feel more isolated from the rest of the world than the ones that occurred at La Coliniere, perhaps because Gosford takes place entirely on the mansion’s grounds. Thankfully, a more elaborate mystery, wry commentary on the film industry, and an abundance of terrific one-liners are served up to fill in the void caused by the reduced thematic depth. Upon its release, The Rules of the Game was an enormously scandalous film. It actually provoked political riots and was banned in France for being “demoralizing.” One really cannot expect Gosford to create anything near the same reaction, but even if it’s set itself an impossible hurdle to leap, it bounds over the bulk of current releases and remains thoroughly enjoyable. 



Jeremy Heilman