Wednesday, 4 May 2016

I, DALIO - OR THE RULES OF THE GAME - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Kudos to Toronto's Jewish Film Festival (TJFF16) presenting the NorthAmerican Premiere of one of the best portraits of acting in film in years, maybe ever! A startling portrait of racism in casting.

To be a great Jewish actor like Marcel Dalio
in Pre-War Paris meant to always play a Jew or Arab
and in either ethnicity, play a pimp, 
snitch, woman-beater,
gun-runner, smuggler, usurer, killer or coward.

I, Dalio - or the Rules of the Game (2015)
Dir. Mark Rappaport
Starring: Voice of Tito De Pinho as Marcel Dalio

Review By Greg Klymkiw

To be a great actor in pre-war France meant you were marginalized in ways that today's diversity-in-film whiners can't even begin to imagine.

I, Dalio - or the Rules of the Game is so damn wonderful. The picture completely immerses you the world of French actor Marcel Dalio and though it runs a mere 33 minutes, the picture never feels rushed and yet, when it's over, one feels replete in all the good ways movies should make you feel. You hope, youou wish it could keep going. Director Mark (Rock Hudson's Home Movies, From the Journals of Jean Seberg) Rappaport achieves what all filmmakers really want and that's to leave their audiences wanting more.

Meticulously, lovingly researched, we hear Dalio as a "character" telling his experiences as an actor in pre-war France, wartime America and postwar France and America. Dalio's "voice" is superbly rendered by Tito De Pinho with such passion and verve, we feel no doubt that the words are literally diary/journal/autobiography writings.

Using generous film clips, we discover how antisemitic France was. Dalio's looks forced him to play the Jew, or in some cases, the Arab. In every case he was portrayed as a snivelling pimp, black marketeer, snitch, gun-runner, petty criminal, usurer, killer and coward. Though his characters were never directly referred to as "a dirty Jew" (or Arab). In one film he is described as France's most successful usurer which was tantamount to saying he was a Jew.
Dalio as "Frenchy" in To Have and Have Not.
Dalio in Casablanca: "Your winnings, sir."
The only role he played in which he was allowed to be a Jew, but with a fully fleshed-out character and a positive spin in France was in Jean Renoir's WWI prison war drama, La Grande Illusion, and years later in Renoir's The Rules of the Game.

Leaving France for America, just prior to the Nazi occupation, Dalio was no longer singled out to be cast as a Jew or Arab. He became the dashing "Frenchman". In Howard Hawks's To Have and Have Not, Dalio played the heroic resistance smuggler "Frenchy". Inexplicably uncredited, Dalio gets one of the best moments in Casablanca when he approaches local constabulary Renault (Claude Rains) after the Vichy cop complains about the illegal gambling in Rick's Café Américain and Dalio, immediately shoving a wad of cash into Renault's hand, utters the immortal line, "Your winnings, Captain."
Dalio in the title role of Rabbi Jacob!
Post-war France brought somewhat less racist roles, but again, he was better cast in American cinema, once again, as a charming Frenchman. Finally, in France during the 1970s, Dalio was cast in the great comedic role of Rabbi Jacob

Rappaport's film is an exquisite memory piece and blessed with a very cool narrative structure. Ultimately, we see the story of a great actor, Jew or not, eventually playing what he was more than qualified to play - a romantic figure and a Frenchman. The whole affair, though, is played with a heartbreaking blend of triumph and sadness.

And I reiterate, what the great Dalio went through, makes contemporary "Oscars so White" actors in comparison, sound like mere killjoy crybabies.


I, Dalio - or the Rules of the Game makes its North American premiere at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2016. Try to see it on a big screen, preferably on a programme featuring Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion and The Rules of the Game, but if the opportunity does not arise, you can watch it on Fandor.