Grand Illusion

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  • Drama, Foreign, Period, Realism, War , produced in 1937 France
  • Actors: Jean Gabin, Erich Von Stroheim
  • Directed by: Jean Renoir
  • Rating: 8 out of 10
  • Plot Summary: Calling on his own experiences as an aviator in WWI as well as those of his comrades, Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece bids farewell to the class constrictions of European society and calls for the unity of humankind across class and national boundaries. Set in the German prison camps of WWI, the film stars Jean Gabin as Marechal, and Marcel Dalio as Rosenthal. Like the charming aristocrat de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay), these two French aviators were shot down and now spend most of their time escaping from German prison camps before inevitably being recaptured. Between escapes, they do what they can to amuse themselves, which includes running a talent show, but after a tunnel they've dug is discovered, the three are sent to Wintersborn, a forbidding fortress of a prison, which is commanded by former ace pilot von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim). The humane commandant practices noblesse oblige toward de Boldieu, hoping for an alliance across national lines. But he comes to learn that this phrase has a different meaning for the Frenchman. One of the great films of all time, GRAND ILLUSION perhaps most purely embodies director Jean Renoir's characterstic humanism, manifested less here in camera technique than an instinctive ability to educe truthful performances from his cast.
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