Grand Illusion

Long before Gallic cinema went into its mid-century suck phase, director Jean Renoir was making movies that were not only great, they were also French. His Boudu Saved From Drowning, Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion all frequently make the list of Best Films Ever Made By Anyone Besides George Lucas. Of the three, Grand Illusion is generally considered the masterpiece, though its message may have been muddied by the years. Watched now, it seems like an anti-war film, and it is that, but more so, it’s a movie about the vast social change that finally eradicated the European nobility and all their pretensions to honor and natural right. Watch for great performances by Erich von Stroheim, Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay, and for several scenes that found their way into later films, including the tunnel-digging sequence from Great Escape and the scene in Casablanca where the French sing the Marseilles to enrage some Germans. Yes, this is the movie that established that Germans could be enraged by song! Clearly, for that alone, it’s on the "don’t miss" list.


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