After the supernova success of Grand Illusion (1937) Renoir had big plans to capture a larger panorama of the revolution, but kept whittling it down to a few engaging personalities, until we are left with a couple of hotheaded revolutionary Marseilles comrades and the aloofly charming Louis XVI (Pierre Renoir), who seems oblivious to the power shift happening right outside his doors.
La Marseillaise is a masterpiece even if the subject is bowdlerized. It's one of the first epics to dramatize anonymous figures, ordinary people. There's a grounding, a strength, a lyricism, and openness of mind. The portrait of the royal family is simply extraordinary.