Tuesday, September 25, 2007

La Grande Illusion

La Grande Illusion, Grand Illusion in English, is a 1937 film about World War 1 directed by Jean Renoir. (I watched his A Day in the Country this past Saturday.) The only actor I recognized was Erich von Stroheim, who played Max in Sunset Boulevard. This is a completely different look at WWI than All Quiet on the Western Front. This one has no battles and focuses on French prisoners in a German prison camp and their escape attempts. It deals with some issues of class and race.


1001 Flicks has a review. The Guardian calls it "a masterpiece". Roger Ebert includes it on his list of "great movies" and describes it as "a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization." Variety says,
An artistically masterful feature, the picture breathes the intimate life of warriors on both sides during the [First] World War. It gives a different slant on the inner mental workings of those caught in the maelstrom of warfare, yet never deviates from the central thesis.
The American Historical Society has an essay that says that "The lasting success of the film rests on the extraordinary performances Renoir got from a cast" and that
In contrast to its aesthetic clarity, the political meaning of Grand Illusion is elusive. Renoir himself said it was a film against war and so it has usually been seen.

2/12/2009: Only the Cinema has a review.

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