La grande illusion

La grande illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937) Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim

Budd Wilkins:
Underneath the brittle surface of Renoir’s much vaunted “humanism” (never for a moment should it be mistaken for laissez-faire moralism), there lay a vast reservoir of indignation that had been brought to a fever pitch by the certainty that history was about to repeat itself as Europe fell under the shadow of totalitarianism. Renoir, though, was never one for tractates. ...
... cinematographer Christian Matras and camera operator Claude Renoir contributed immeasurably to Grand Illusion’s still-vital visual scheme. Renoir’s restlessly mobile camera, subtly detailing the bonds and chasms between the prisoners by linking their routines and living spaces, owes much to his nephew’s camerawork, which he once described as “supple as an eel.”  Slant.

Roger Ebert:
What the Frenchman knows and the German won't admit is that the new world belongs to commoners. It changed hands when the gentlemen of Europe declared war. And the "grand illusion” of Renoir's title is the notion that the upper classes somehow stand above war. The German cannot believe that his prisoners, whom he treats almost as guests, would try to escape. After all, they have given their word not to. ...
... In these scenes von Stroheim makes an indelible impression, as a man deluded by romantic notions of chivalry and friendship. It is a touching performance, a collaboration between the great silent director and Renoir, then emerging as a master of sound. ...
... Jean Renoir, born in 1894, is on any list of the half-dozen greatest filmmakers, and his The Rules of the Game (1939) is even more highly considered than Grand Illusion.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 14 September, 2020 | Now: 14 September, 2020