La Grande Illusion (1937)

La Grande Illusion poster

This is one of the greats. Why? It’s about more than its ostensible subject matter, French officers making repeated attempts at escape from their German captors in WW1. Pilots Jean Gabin, Marcel Dalio and Pierre Fresnay are taken to a schloss run by commandant Erich Von Stroheim. He and Fresnay are aristocrats and have a mutual understanding of duty and decency. When Fresnay allows his working class colleagues escape, he has to be shot and Von Stroheim has to do it. It’s understood. They stay with a German woman and leave her too, understanding that everything is an illusion. Renoir co-wrote this with Charles Spaak. The title came from a book by economist Norman Angell who theorised about the futility of war in Europe due to common economic interests: ┬áhow timely! Featuring Ms Dita Parlo, so beloved of Madonna, to whom she bears a superficial resemblance. To be enjoyed and studied endlessly.

 

 

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