Grand Illusion Screen 5 articles

Grand Illusion

1937

Grand Illusion Poster
  • While class trumping nationalism makes for a provocative thesis, I feel like I know too much about war and dehumanization to believe that it's ever been so civilized in practice. Renoir's genius is that he makes you want to believe, though, and if I can't fully accept or embrace his romanticized depiction of the Great War, that doesn't prevent an indulgent grin from sneaking onto my face.

  • Perhaps what makes the film great is that, while it is quintessentially French, and proudly French, it scrutinizes its own temptation toward jingoism; neither the spirit of the nation, nor that scrutiny, are undercut, and the two philosophies, that ought to cancel each other out, end up serving as the other's counterweight. This cantilevered design, relying on the tension between two opposing concepts, can be found in many great works of art.

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    My Journey Through French Cinema: Bertrand Tavernier
    May 16, 2016 |

    When the film was over, I was totally stunned. . . . That scene often brings tears to my eyes. In that little moment, you sense that Renoir dredges up tons of feelings: that the war was dragging on, that Gabin has been through a lot, that things weigh heavily on him. None of that is in the dialog. It's all conveyed in the way the characters move, the choice of framing, and the silences. I find this scene miraculous. I felt I was seeing another type of cinema.

  • Timely on its first appearance in 1937, Renoir’s masterpiece is now accepted as timeless, although it has suffered a little dangerous neglect. As the continent stumbled towards a second world war, this story of prisoners of war finding friendship, solidarity and hope behind enemy lines voiced the mounting pacifist sentiment in France and offered a vision of European unity. Eighty years later, the message of La Grande Illusion is every bit as relevant.

  • Considering Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion today in no small part involves an awareness of status and stature, the most prominent (or maybe just the most intimidating) aspect of which surely being the cherished status the film continues to enjoy in the canon of film history. To this day, it remains a singular achievement, not only as one of Renoir's foundational masterpieces, but also as a film of its time whose contents have remained timeless.

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