GRAND ILLUSION is about war and the men caught within the game. A film about "children playing as soldiers, and soldiers playing as children". It is Renoir's legacy. Through episodic segments, a plethora of languages, and a focus on intricate details, Renoir takes us into the prison class system. Repeat viewings strip the focus of French cinema away (though, one cannot deny it) and craft this into a worldly film.
A war film unlike any other I've seen, I'm completely blown away. Finally got around to it on the recommendation of Woody Allen (as Isaac Davis in Manhattan) of all people.The criterion transfer is beautiful! The little 4 minute featurette on the restoration was jaw-dropping, what with how much work went in. This film deserves to be seen by anyone who can get their hands on it.
What holds up: its sophisticated - one could call it "poetic" - sense of humour. What doesn't: its naïve politics of subjectivity and liberalism, which were already obsolete by the end of WWI and cannot dismantle our current networks of oppression (whose mainstream rhetoric is only a dumbed down version of Renoir's).
A masterpiece and the first Renoir film I've seen. He is clearly a master director and his humanistic vision is very touching. The acting is excellent, with Erich von Stroheim standing out in particular as the German officer who oversees the French prisoners. A great anti-war film. With no battle scenes.
In terms of pure craft, I doubt anyone in his day was better..., more than that this film seems to pull off the impossible by playing the high-wire balancing act of perfectly blending of humor, pathos, love and and just enough optimism sprinkled in to really make it one of his true masterworks.
'La Grande Illusion' really pissed off Hitler, and he made it a point to try to find and destroy all copies of the movie. Luckily for world cinema, the Russians had the negative during World War II. This movie is about a different type of war. A nobler war that has rules, and people who respect each other. There's also some controversial stuff about anti-Semitism that crops up at the end of the film.
I love when Mubi gives me the opportunity to catch up on an all-time classic that I've missed. Not only can I check this off my list, I can feel great while doing it, as Grand Illusion had a much stronger emotional connection than The Rules Of The Game did for me.
The film is subdued, clever, and smartly ahead of its time. Taking particular note of the turmoil still present still in Europe while still displaying the deep running relations, the film establishes that early then sets it aside for what it is truly intrigued by. The film moves into the human psyche during war time and here is when it begins to thrive. Looking at many stories at once it finds a way to stay genuine.
(4.5 stars) A grand film with wonderful characters, great story, good plotting, nice camerawork and completely enjoyable. A prisoner of war film but in a very refined "French" manner. Ha. Makes everything civil while the darkness of war hangs over it all. Fine performances all around. Renoir knows how to capture the spirit of human emotions and it's on good display here. There is simply a lot to love in this film.
A film I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't seen until now, but in a way I'm grateful. This is a mature film, with a tone and trajectory that completely undermines any expectation you may have had. Often, Dark Humor is directed towards characters; but here, it's pointed squarely at the ideal of War, and its characters are loved by the film itself in a strange, ethereal, magnetic fashion. Essential.
I don't get the historical importance, apparently. Really? - Orson Welles said that? The first 2/3rds is like Hogan's Heroes -- where are the real Hanoi Hiltons, or Guantanamo Bays, etc.? The last third, with the love affair between the French and the German - and the paternalism for the cute-little-Jew - sorry, I don't get it. Much prefer Renoir's "Afternoon in the Country".