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Grand Illusion - Criterion Collection
Grand Illusion - Criterion Collection
Actors: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich Von Stroheim, Julien Carette
Director: Jean Renoir
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
UR     1999     1hr 54min

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 G...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich Von Stroheim, Julien Carette
Director: Jean Renoir
Creators: Christian Matras, Jean Renoir, Marguerite Renoir, Marthe Huguet, Albert Pinkovitch, Frank Rollmer, Charles Spaak
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/23/1999
Original Release Date: 09/12/1938
Theatrical Release Date: 09/12/1938
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 1hr 54min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 30
Edition: Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Subtitles: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

Finally, a masterpiece given the treatment it deserves...
K. Garner | the midwest | 12/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Criterion Collection has been batting 1.000 lately by bringing out splendid DVD versions of such classic films as "The Wages of Fear","The Passion of Joan of Arc" and "The Third Man". Now, with "Grand Illusion", they may have even surpassed themselves. The transfer is from an original camera negative thought to be lost for decades and it can't be rivalled for image clarity or sound quality (given that this is a 62-year old film). The DVD version of "Grand Illusion" looks as close as we can hope to its original state. The film itself is a poignant examination of the conflict between class and national identity during World War I. Three French officers - an aristocrat (Pierre Fresnay), a rich Jewish banker (Marcel Dalio), and a working-class capitian (Jean Gabin) - are captured and imprisoned by a refined, arrogant German officer (von Stroheim). The French and German aristocrats share a deeper cultural and affetionate bond than they do with the men of their respective countries. When the French captives plan an escape, the aristocratic officer risks himself for a nationalism he doesn't believe in. The scenes between Fresnay and von Stroheim, arguably some of the tenderest scenes in the movie, display a ritual of noblesse oblige that seems absurd today (the people in the cinema where I saw it laughed at these men's tender missives to each other). And, indeed, these aristocratic manners are patently absurd in the theater of modern warfare. Pauline Kael has said that this film is "an elegy for a dying class" and that's partially true - it's also an examination of how tenuous the bonds of nationalism can be both within countries (as relations between the working-class Gabin and Dalio later prove) and between them (when a German guard hands Gabin a harmonica). And yet, the acting and writing are grounded so much character and detail that you can be very moved by this film without noticing these underlying theme (the audience that laughed at the aforementioned scenes, gave the film a standing ovation at the end). "Grand Illusion" has been enormously influental - you can see traces of it in "Casablanca" (with Dalio, interestingly enough) and "Paths of Glory", for example. Renoir's direction is wonderfully fluid - even his minor characters have unique features. Along with "Passion" and "The Third Man", the Criterion version of "Grand Illusion" is one of the finest DVD releases of the year. Let's hope that they now do the same for "The Rules of the Game""
Number 1 DVD transfer for the Number 1 movie !
Michael Lellouche | paris, france | 01/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Grand Illusion is sometimes considered as one of the greatest movies ever shot. It was Orson Welles' favorite. Even though many consider that "Rules of the Game" is more important and brillant. The two movies are very different, both incredible. Grand Illusion is easier to catch immediatly while Rules let you think endlessly. In regard of the DVD : BUY IT EYES CLOSED ! The picture is incredible, looks like it was shot yesterday because coming from the original re-found negative film. It has not even one small spot or crack. It is PURE. And it is the original 114 minutes version, not the well-known 105 minutes. The DVD is full of bonus, the best being the filmed introduction by Jean Renoir, and also the audio archive of Von Stroheim. I cannot express how much I love Renoir and this movie and I hope that Rules of the Game will come up in DVD soon in Zone 1 (it exists in France in Zone 2 with a beautiful master, but has no english subtitles). Then the world can contemplate this masterpiece again and again. Buy Grand Illusion and you'll never think of war and humanity the same way again."
A stunning re-birth of the great classic
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 05/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the greatest achievement in film history, this Jean Renoir's masterpiece could be seen only in prints and video made from an inferior duplicate neagtive for over 40 years, as the original film elements was thought to be lost during the German occupation (Goebbels and Hitler hated the film, and banned it in Germany at its original release). If you have seen only these versions, you haven't really seen it yet! The new transfer, made from the newly-discovered original camera negative (i.e., the best film element available) is just stunning. For the viewers familliar with the film, there is an added surprise at the begining, for the credit title sequence is different. The crisp trasnfer allow viewers to appreciate the depth of Renoir's masterful direction, for you can see a lot of details that might be lost in inferior prints: for Renoir, it is not just the protagonists that are important, but the whole atmosphere that surrounds them, including the delicious performance from the supporting cast (the Jean Renoir Stock Company, such as Julien Carrette, Gaston Modot and Jean Daste) which makes this film more than just an anti-war film. The DVD also includes the trailer from the 1958 re-release, featuring Jean Renoir himself passionately telling what this movie is all about: "it is a story of people like you and me, caught in the tragedy called war". Grand Illusion is a story of survival, of people who want to live in their best way possible, within their humain limitation. Limitation, for the people can act only within their social class behaviour and their social role. But Renoir never condems or criticize them; the film embraces even the flaws in their perosnalities. It's a great film, and a must-have DVD."
Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 05/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Orson Welles, who was not known for his modesty, said that if a cabinet containing every film ever made caught fire and he only had time to run in and rescue one film, it would be the Grand Illusion (not Citizen Kane, etc). Most people watching this film today might wonder why it warrants such high praise. I say this because many of the themes in this film have been dealt with memorably in other films (the first time I saw the Grand Illusion, for example, I couldn't help thinking that I preferred Stalag 17). As a result, the film appears to be less original than it actually was. Modern audiences are also not used to the movie's themes being dealt with so subtly (no bodies are graphically blown up to show the horrors of war, no lower class characters are unjustly executed, etc). Thus it will not attract as much widespread popular praise as such overblown garbage as Saving Private Ryan (which is a complete and utter failure as an anti-war movie after its opening 10 minute gorefest ends). In contrast, this film has a subtle depth which elevates its effectiveness and will keep the viewer thinking long after it ends.There are many illusions dealt with in the film. The interaction between the upper class prisoners and the prison camp's commandant (excellently performed by Erich Von Stronheim) illustrates the illusion of civility that exists (or should I say existed) during war (people pretending to be civilized while trying to wipe each other out). It illustrates the illusion of nationalism (except for the war, the officers are kindred spirits). The illusion of class is also well portrayed with the commandant arbitrarily showing less favour to some prisoners because of their last name and for no other reason. Viewers with knowledge of history will also note the irony in its theme of the decline of nobility and the ascendency of democracy given that this film occurs during a war in which lowly soldiers were ruthlessly sacrificed by their "noble" leaders in greater numbers than in any other war.One thing which makes this film different from most others about war or class is that it portrays the noble officers as worthwhile and positive people, but it treats all of its characters with equal respect. This, of course, further illustrates the illusory nature of class.For a thought-provoking movie, it is also quite entertaining, filled with humour, suspense and great performances. While I would not go as far as Welles in his praise of The Grand Illusion, it is still very highly recommended."