Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Films: LA GRANDE ILLUSION starring Pierre Fresnay, Erich Von Stroheim, Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo and Marcel Dalio


A short post today, feeling a bit wonky:

THE GRAND ILLUSION (1937) aka La Grande Illusion, a French film directed by Jean Renoir based on a screenplay by Charles Spaak and Jean Renoir and starring Pierre Fresnay, Erich Von Stroheim, Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo and Marcel Dalio.

A superb film which, without much fuss or film-making shock and awe, reveals the emptiness of war and the valor and humanity of men. 

After many trials and tribulations, two WWI French soldiers, Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin), a working class officer and Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), an officer and aristocrat, are captured and sent to an impregnable German fortress/POW camp from which no one has ever escaped. The camp is run by the gentlemanly Captaine Von Ruffenstein (Erich Von Stroheim), a stoic in mind, body (he wears a stiff neck brace) and manners who soon forms an unlikely friendship based on class and mutual friends, with Captain de Boeldieu. 

It is this friendship which in the end speaks volumes, historically and otherwise, about the terrible futility of war, the end of chivalry and worse, the death of illusion. A very human and approachable film, even these many years later. 

THE GRAND ILLUSION is listed as one of the greatest films ever made by just about everyone, including me. 

To read the entire plot, please go to the film's Wikipedia page, here

To read a Roger Ebert review, please check this link.

P.S. Of course, Jean Renoir's imaginative concepts influenced later war films. Example: In THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), the scene in which POW prisoners dig a tunnel and funnel the earth through their pants is taken, almost literally, from GRAND ILLUSION.

12 comments:

  1. Remember taking my kids to see this at a revival house when they were about ten and telling them you'll never forget this. They never did but mostly for the joke of it. Great one.

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    1. Oh they were probably too young, Patti. Forgivable. :) I didn't see this until I was older and able to really appreciate it. A film over seventy years old and still affecting.

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  2. An enormously impressive film Yvette, and I think a very unexpected one - the way that it explores issues of class and racial prejudice for instance are remarkable for their subtlety and for springing from a seemingly unexpected subject. Great choice, forever one of my favourite films, unquestionably a masterpiece.

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    1. Yes, Sergio, I agree. This is a masterpiece. A film with a lot to say and remarkable for the subtle way it goes about it. A thinking film. The sort of film they simply cannot make any more - frankly, I think they've forgotten how.

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  3. Thanks for another interesting post. I hope you're feeling better soon. No fun feeling wonky!

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    1. Thanks, Joan. But, I'm afraid this is on-going. Still, I have my good days and today is one. :)

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  4. Hope you're feeling better soon!

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  5. Thanks, Richard. It's hit or miss around these parts. :)

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  6. I first saw this one while in college, Yvette, and it made a lasting impression. It's brilliantly directed, written and acted - particularly Erich von Stroheim, who can move an audience to tears in the final moments of the film.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Les. Heartbreaking.

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  7. I couldn't agree more, Yvette - I saw it at an early age and it has never left me - right up there with CITIZEN KANE, PATHER PANCHALI and BICYCLE THIEVES for me, just the best that would cinema has ever produced.

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    1. Such a moving film, Sergio. I've never forgotten it either.

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