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La Grande Illusion 75th Anniversary [DVD]

4.4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim, Jean Gabin, Marcel Dalio, Julien Carette
  • Directors: Jean Renoir
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Studiocanal
  • DVD Release Date: 23 April 2012
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007BL638Y
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,419 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Jean Renoir's classic prison escape movie, often seen as a humane and pacifist indictment of war, offers an ambiguous perspective on class differences. In a WWI German prisoner-of-war camp, three French soldiers, working-class Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin), middle-class Jew Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) and aristocratic senior officer Captain de Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay), are held prisoner by Commandant Von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim). The film shows how a bond of sympathy exists more between the German Commandant and the senior French officer than between the three Frenchman of different classes. Even though de Boieldieu sacrifices himself for the two others to escape, the film makes no attempt to conceal what they are returning to once their role as war heroes is over.


It's long been one of the revered classics of international cinema, but there is no fine layer of dust over La Grande Illusion. Jean Renoir's film is just as vibrant, exciting and wise as it has ever been. The story is set during World War I, mostly in a couple of German POW camps, where two very different French prisoners plot to escape: the working-class officer Maréchal (Jean Gabin, the French Spencer Tracy) and the upper-class de Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay). The suspenseful backbone of the story is formed by these escape attempts, but Renoir is primarily concerned with the way people treat each other, and especially with how class and nationality inform human relations. Most compelling of all the film's characters is the aristocratic German officer von Rauffenstein, unforgettably incarnated by stiff-backed Erich von Stroheim; although he runs a prison camp, von Rauffenstein cannot help but strike up a friendship with de Boieldieu, a kindred spirit from the doomed nobility. There is nothing dewy or naive about Renoir's vision (and two years after the release of this antiwar film, Europe was plunged into another world war), yet La Grande Illusion is one of those movies that makes you feel good about such long-outmoded ideas as sacrifice and brotherhood. After it won a prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1937, the Nazis declared the film "Cinematographic Enemy Number One". There can be no higher praise. --Robert Horton, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"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.

Strongly recommended!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
NB: As is their wont, Amazon have unhelpfully lumped together the reviews of various editions and formats of this title. This review refers to StudioCanal's DVD and Blu-ray releases, which conain different extras.

La Grande Illusion is one of those films whose reputation as one of the pinnacles of cinematic achievement has always seemed unfathomable to me. If anything, its reputation does the film a great disservice. It IS a good film - a very good film, in fact - but it's not the great one it may have seemed before so many P.O.W. films burrowed through similar ground after the war, and it seems to have less to say with each passing year, gradually turning into yet another prisoner of war movie moving from boarding school hijinks to slightly superficial comments on the class system. There are a few excellent scenes in the last third, not least once Von Stroheim re-enters the film, but it feels at times as if there's more French studio system craft than substance. Certainly as an anti-war film it's surprisingly ineffective compared to Pabst or Milestone's earlier efforts.

Studio Canal's 75th Anniversary edition DVD is an improvement over the previous Warners/Canal + release, this has a restored sequence missing from the earlier release and an introduction by film historian Ginette Vincendreau. Also included are two of Renoir's silent short films:

Made with film stock left over from the production of Nana, 1927's Sur un Air de Charleston is described as a holiday film for all concerned, and that's the best way to view it. Jean Renoir seems never to have thought enough of it to even edit the footage together.
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Format: DVD
This is one of if not thee greatest french movie of all time the plot summary is During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape.

This has about 2 hour worth of special features including about an hours worth of silent films an introduction from jean Renoir aswell as an introuduction from french film critic Ginette Vincendeau.

What more could you ask this film has english subtitles and french audio.
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By Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 July 2012
Format: DVD
I will admit straight away that I look at this film through rose tinted spectacles. In my case age has done absolutely nothing to wither the beauty and power of this film. It was the very first foreign language film that I managed to sit through as a child. Not only did I sit through it, but I loved it. It was so human and accessible, it's messages still resounding down the many years since it was made back in 1937. Congratulations to Studio Canal who have restored it to it's original glory. I saw the 1958 version on TV some years ago, which was made up from prints recovered after the Second World War. The Nazi's despised the films anti war message, and the way in which the different classes, which included a jew, a coloured man and a member of the French aristocracy, worked together for a common cause. Anathema to Hitler!

The film is set in a German POW camp during the First World War. A mixed bag of French POW's work together to try and esacape back to France. The class difference between the men is such that the aristocratic French captain De Boeldieu has more in common with his German counterpart Captain Von Rauffenstein. The two sharing the same chivalrous code towards war. Class differences are put aside for same nationalistic common cause. The films director Jean Renoir explored similar themes two years later in " La Regle du Jeu". Much has been made of the fact Renoir's father was the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and the extent to which he was influenced by him. Perhaps this has been a little overstated. In "La Grande Illusion" the cinematography does not really support that, although if you watch his later film "The River", you may think otherwise. It doesn't really matter a lot.
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