Apr 16, 2012

22nd April ; Jean Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION

A Film by Jean Renoir
Country : France
Year : 1937
French / German with English subtitles
Runtime:114 mins
22nd April 2012 ; 5.45 pm
Perks Mini Theater

Jean Renoir’s most popular and well-known work, La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion, 1937), is considered one of the all-time great anti-war films. The action, set mostly in World War I German prisoner-of-war camps, concerns the escape efforts of several French officers confined in the camps. Made just before the onset of World War II, the film stands more as a testament to the brotherhood of mankind.This is first World War and several French officers, among them Lt. Maréchal (Jean Gabin), Capt. de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), and Lt. Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), have been captured by German forces and escorted to a prison camp where they quickly go about the business of planning an escape.
The movie, filmed as the clouds of World War II were gathering, uses these characters to illustrate how the themes of the first war would tragically worsen in the second. So pointed was Renoir's message that when the Germans occupied France, ``Grand Illusion'' was one of the first things they seized. It was "Cinematic Public Enemy No. 1,'' propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels announced, ordering the original negative seized.The German commandant is played by Erich von Stroheim, in one of the most famous of movie performances. Here is a crisp print that underlines Renoir's visual style, his mastery of a subtly moving camera that allowed him to film extended passages without cutting. In the paintings of his father, Auguste Renoir, our eyes are led gently through the composition. In the films of the son, there is a quiet voluptuousness; the camera doesn't point or intrude, but glides.

Jean Renoir

Son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste, Jean Renoir had a happy childhood. Pierre Renoir was his brother, and Claude Renoir was his nephew. After the end of World War I, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he moved from scriptwriting to filmmaking. He married Catherine Hessling, for whom he began to make movies; he wanted to make a star of her. His next partner was Marguerite Renoir, whom he never married, although she took his name. He left France in 1941 during the German invasion of France during World War II and became a naturalized US citizen.
As a director and actor, he made more than forty films from the silent era to the end of the 1960s. As an author, he wrote the definitive biography of his father, Renoir, My Father (1962). Renoir exerted immense influence on subsequent auteur directors, including among others Orson Welles, Satyajit Ray, and François Truffaut. Best remembered for such cinematic landmarks as Grand Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939), Renoir is considered one of the major figures of French and international film history.
Renoir's films were underestimated when they first came out. They were unconventional, complex, and so energetic and technically daring that few noticed their intricate structure. They were often dismissed as rough, not fully achieved artistically. The generation that came to the cinema in the '60s and '70s (perhaps the richest and most diverse era in European cinema) recognised Renoir as an ancestor who had already made the kind of films they admired or were setting out to make themselves, and justly hailed them as masterpieces.

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