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One of the very first prison escape movies, Grand Illusion is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece stars Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay, as French soldiers held in a World War I German prison camp, and Erich von Stroheim as the unforgettable Captain von Rauffenstein. Following a smash theatrical re-release, Criterion is proud to present Grand Illusion in a new special edition, with a beautifully restored digital transfer.
It's long been one of the revered classics of international cinema, but there is no fine layer of dust over La Grande Illusion. Jean Renoir's film is just as vibrant, exciting, and wise as it has ever been. The story is set during World War I, mostly in a couple of German POW camps, where two very different French prisoners plot to escape: the working-class officer Maréchal (Jean Gabin, the French Spencer Tracy) and the upper-class de Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay). The suspenseful backbone of the story is formed by these escape attempts, but Renoir is primarily concerned with the way people treat each other, and especially with how class and nationality inform human relations. Most compelling of all the film's characters is the aristocratic German officer von Rauffenstein, unforgettably incarnated by stiff-backed Erich von Stroheim; although he runs a prison camp, von Rauffenstein cannot help but strike up a friendship with de Boieldieu, a kindred spirit from the doomed nobility. There is nothing dewy or naive about Renoir's vision (and two years after the release of this antiwar film, Europe was plunged into another world war), yet Grand Illusion is one of those movies that makes you feel good about such long-outmoded ideas as sacrifice and brotherhood. After it won a prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1937, the Nazis declared the film "Cinematographic Enemy Number One." There can be no higher praise. --Robert Horton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
One theme is the respect the German General had for his French counterpart in spite of the fact they were sworn enemies. It can also show that in war, that your enemies are people too.
The film is also viewed by some as a (failed) last cry to Germany (where it was banned) to avoid the destruction and senselessness of yet another war.
I am beginning to watch the Criterion Collection DVD's in order of the spine number and will review them when I have the chance.
As to the movie I think this is one of the greatest ever made. Watch how the subjects of honor, camaraderie, and humanity are treated. Watch how they all get together around meals. Nobody likes the war, and enemies understand each other: they all want it to come to an end. After that, go read the poetry of Wilfred Owen. Judging from the wars we let happen, we have certainly not learned.
Jean Renoir's masterpiece is a study about patriotism, about the frontiers, geographical or ethical, between nations and men. Why does Erich Von Stroheim, the German officer commander of the prisoner camp, develop a friendship with Pierre Fresnay, the French noble officer ? Will it be stronger than military duty ?
Charles Spaak's screenplay is first-class, the actors "over the top" and Criterion's extra features an homage to the possibilities of the DVD standard.
A DVD for your library. Of course.
*The miseries of the war brought the richness in my brain*, this sentenece is pronounced by Stroheim to the men in the remarkable sequence at the dinner.
Jean Renoir made his masterpiece around the hope and the enjoy of living, despite the horrors of the war. The message is clear : you must to follow your bliss even in the worst circunstances : no matter how awful be the world that surrounds you. The great men are not prisoners of the fate : they follow his principles and the powerful will struggles the fate and so it becomes a consequence of their acts , the point is that they are just a few .
Andrei Tarkovski wrote once this wisdom statement:
*The art is possible in the world due its no perfection : if the world was perfect the art would have no sense*.
Thta powerful statement is the meaning force that feeds the behavior of these men . May be they are not conscious about the spirit of the statement of Tarkovsky , but they are doing precisely that.
The great illusion is a big slap in the face about the WW1 : but beware this is not an anti belic flim : it goes beyond this simple aspect : we should expect fifteen years after for Jeux Interdits , another supreme film of Rene Clement , which reflects with greatness the slap about the WW2.
This film is not only an extraordinary work. It's a thousand carats jewel.
So it's timeless movie.
There is no American point of view in "Grand Illusion." There are Russian prisoners, upset when a big shipment from the czarina turned out to be books instead of vodka. In the opening scene, a German aristocrat is a pilot who shot down a French aristocrat, the first prisoner to appear in the movie. At the prison camp, a rich banker is the source of whatever bounty the prisoners are able to receive, and even the guards respect the right of those with money to have what they are unable to obtain. The tragic element of the movie is the decline of whatever superiority the aristocracy had before World War One, in either France or Germany. The values which were shared between the aristocrats in the film had become piffle, of no value whatever by 1937, when this movie was made, and the discussions between the characters in this movie trace the loss of such distinctions in the greater cataclysm of war on such a large scale. This is a fine film.
Most recent customer reviews
This hard-to-get historical film by Jean Gablin is a treasure for history buffs. Very well done and highly recommended for those interested in the First World War relationships... Read morePublished 21 months ago by M. Mills
grand illusion is so well known that is almost not worthy to comment on it other than it is the best war/antiwar film of all time bar none, and is also very funny. Read morePublished on June 21 2004 by Ashley Allinson
Wonderful movie, amazing print quality, and one of the best commentary tracks (Peter Cowie) that I have heard.Published on Feb. 4 2004 by C. Rubin
Amazing restoration, unfortunately, the film does not hold up well over time. The comments from the director about how WW1 was a "gentleman's War" only corroborate his... Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004
There is no way to explain this films greatness in words, just buy it watch it, and tell people about it. Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2004 by Emmett Miller
Man, this movie didn't really move me at all. Although I heard this was highly praised, I found this film to be a chore, took me 23 days to get over with this film. Read morePublished on June 19 2003 by Mr. Math Expert
This film was made about 65 years ago, so those looking for explosions, bullets, and butchery had better go with something more recent. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2002 by T. SIMPSON
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