Friday, June 8, 2007

Grand Illusion (1937)

Directed by Jean Renoir. Starring Jean Gabin, Marcel Dalio, Pierre Fresnay, and Erich Von Stroheim.

Here's the grand-daddy of the modern war film, from one of the great masters. Renoir's classic tells the story of a group of French prisoners of war during World War I, including the great Gabin, as well as Dalio and Fresnay. While Gabin and Dalio are middle-class, yearning to escape their confinement, while Fresnay, a member of the fading upper-class, strikes up a friendship with German officer Stroheim. Renoir was one of the cinema's great humanists, and here he finds poignancy in all his characters, particularly Fresnay and Stroheim, who know their way of life has been doomed by the war, but form a bond in order to hold on to the little they have left. Another director may have made the nobility out to be fools, but Renoir instead has sympathy for them. The escape attempts by the lower-class prisoners are still exciting today, even after we've seen the films that were inspired by this one. GRAND ILLUSION, for all its sadness, also contains no small portion of hope that people may look past their differences and find the goodness in each other.

No comments: