"La Grande Illusion" is often considered one of the best movies ever made, and people like Woody Allen see it every day or something like that. It was directed in 1937 by Jean Renoir, son of painter Auguste Renoir. The setting is the 1st world war, and the protagonists are prisoners of war: three frenchmen, an aristocrat, an officer and a jew are captured by the germans. But this is no usual war film. First of all, there is no simple propagandistic message or depictions of good vs evil. On the contrary, enemy soldiers are behaving like gentlemen towards each other (often producing comic effects, as when a german guard tries to console one of the prisoners by giving him a harmonica, or the officer who begs the escapee he shot for forgiveness). And questions like why the war started and how it will end is put aside. Instead, more existential questions come to the fore. Like the futility of it all. And social questions like class relations and nationalities. It is interesting how nationalities are mixed, in the film german, french and english is spoken making it a film about Europe. Europe before the EU and before Hitler. But even so it has a timeless quality. This is an anti war-film, but not by depicting people being slaughtered or cities in ruins. Instead it feels like a celebration of life and friendship which makes the war going on seem all the more insane and a grand illusion indeed.
The DVD from Optimum is very good. The picture/transfer is excellent in every way, I watched it on a projector and it looked like new. And there are good extras: two early short movies by Renoir and two introductions, one by Renoir himself and one by film critic Jeanette Vincendeau. Both are well worth watching, Renoir gives an inspired speech to the audience and Vincendeau an analysis of the film.