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La Grande Illusion(1937)
Jean Renoir's pacifist masterpiece stars Jean Gabin as a French World War I POW held by Erich Von Stroheim's German captain.
For more about La Grande Illusion and the La Grande Illusion Blu-ray release, see La Grande Illusion Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Jean Renoir
Writers: Charles Spaak, Jean Renoir
Starring: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim, Julien Carette, Georges Péclet
» See full cast & crew
La Grande Illusion Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 23, 2012
Winner of Best Overall Artistic Contribution Award at the Venice Film Festival, Jean Renoir's "La Grande Illusion" (1937) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal. The supplemental features on the disc include two original trailers; introduction to the film by professor Ginette Vincendeau; video interview with Natacha Laurent from La Cinematique de Toulouse; video interview with film historian Olivier Curchod; video interview with script instructor John Truby; restoration demonstration; Jean Renoir and Jean Tédesco's short film "La petite marchande d'allumettes"; and more. In French, English, German, and Russian, with optional English, German, and French subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The First World War. While scouting an important area, two French aviators, Captain de Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay, Monsieur Vincent, Le Corbeau) and Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin, Le Quai Des Brumes, En cas de malheur), are captured by the Germans, after their plane is shot down by the highly respected Captain von Rauffenstein (Eric von Stroheim, Sunset Boulevard, Five Graves to Cairo). Shortly after, Boieldieu and Marechal are greeted by Rauffenstein and invited to have lunch with him. Despite the fact that they are enemies, Boieldieu and Rauffenstein, both aristocrats, very much enjoy each other's company.
Soon after, the Frenchmen are transferred to a large POW camp overpopulated with other French, British, and Russian soldiers of various social backgrounds. There, they quickly befriend the bubbly Jewish banker Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio, The Rules of the Game, Pillow Talk) and a few of his friends, who inform them that they have been digging a secret tunnel and that it is only a matter of time before they use it. Boieldieu and Marechal can't believe their luck.
But the French Army takes over a key battleground and the German Army is forced to retreat with heavy losses. The prisoners are immediately transferred to a gloomy, heavily guarded castle high up in the mountains.
The castle is run by Rauffenstein, who greets the prisoners and immediately gives Boieldieu and Marechal a quick tour of the place. The tour convinces the two Frenchmen that it would take a real miracle to escape from it. Nevertheless, Boieldieu, Marechal, and the Jewish banker come up with a good escape plan - though the plan can only work if one of them stays behind to distract the guards. Boieldieu proudly agrees to be the decoy.
Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion might well be one of the boldest and most provocative war films ever made. Completed in 1937, it offers a fascinating glimpse into a world on the verge of a massive socio-political transformation. Though it may seem otherwise, the focus of attention throughout the film is not on the escape preparations, but on the class division between the German and French soldiers as well as their visions of the future.
The title, Grand Illusion, refers to the belief shared by the two aristocrats, Boieldieu and Rauffenstein, that after the end of the war the old and proper world order would be restored and that their kind will triumph again. It also addresses the notion that people from different social backgrounds can find a common ground when called to defend their country. (Renoir makes it perfectly clear that ordinary French and German soldiers have a lot more in common with each other than they do with French and German aristocrats).
Something else that is worth mentioning is the use of various languages in the film (French, German, English and Russian). To show their supremacy, the two aristocrats often communicate in English, leaving their lowly countrymen clueless about their intentions. While nowadays subtitles are a common feature used in many films, in 1937 they were not.
Note: La Grande Illusion was an instant commercial and critical success in France. In Germany and Italy, however, the film was eventually banned by the Nazi and Fascist regimes. After the Germans occupied France, the film's original negative was promptly confiscated and shipped to Berlin, where later on the Soviets claimed it and shipped it to Moscow. The negative returned to France in the late 1970s, and was consequently 'discovered' in La Cinematheque de Toulouse.
La Grande Illusion Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal.
There are some minor discrepancies between the films in the Studio Canal collection that were released in Europe and then in the U.S. (for example, The Third Man releases by Studio Canal/Optimum Home Entertainment and Lionsgate Films). There are no such discrepancies between the UK and French Blu-ray releases of Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion. Like the French release, the UK release boasts a solid high-definition transfer of the recent 4K restoration of the film, which is guaranteed to please its fans.
I can only echo the comments from my review of the French release. Detail and clarity are indeed dramatically improved, while contrast stability has never been this strong before. Film grain is also very well resolved and evenly distributed throughout the entire film. Additionally, it is clear that after the restoration overzealos sharpening corrections have not been performed. However, the film has been carefully cleaned up and as a result now it looks virtually spotless. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content. Also, please note that the disc's main menu can be set in one of the following languages: English, French, or German).
La Grande Illusion Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The same audio options from the French Blu-ray release of La Grande Illusion are present on the UK Blu-ray release: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (with portions of English, German, and Russian). For the record, Studio Canal have provided optional English, German, and French subtitles for the main feature. (Please note that the German subtitles do not appear when German is spoken, and the French subtitles do not appear when French is spoken).
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track gives the film much needed depth and fluidity. Additionally, as mentioned in our review of the French release, it is clear that various stabilizations have been performed, while crackle, pops, and background hiss have been cleaned up as best as possible. ((The only time some extremely light background hiss is noticeable is during the Christmas celebration in the final third of the film). There are no sync issues, high-frequency distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
La Grande Illusion Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: The press materials I received for the UK Blu-ray release of Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion also contain information about the upcoming UK DVD release. Apparently, the DVD release will not have all of the supplemental features from the Blu-ray release. According to my press sheet, the DVD will only contain an introduction by Jean Renoir, the shorts Sur Un Air de Charleston & La Petite Marchande d'Allumettes, and an original theatrical trailer.
La Grande Illusion Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The UK Blu-ray release of Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion looks and sounds as impressive as the French Blu-ray release. More importantly, however, all of the supplemental features from the French release have also been transferred to the UK release. Now, if for some strange reason you might have considered getting the upcoming DVD release, please take a look at the short note in the supplemental features section of this review. Finally, Studio Canal are also releasing this beautiful new restoration of Jean Renoir's film in cinemas across the UK on April 6th (the Blu-ray streets on April 23rd). If you reside in the UK or will be visiting in April, I encourage you to see the film theatrically. It truly looks magnificent. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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La Grande Illusion Blu-ray, News and Updates
• La Grande Illusion Gets UK Release Date - February 18, 2012
Studio Canal have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray Jean Renoir's classic La Grande Illusion (1937), starring Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Erich von Stroheim, and Julien Carette. The Blu-ray release follows a brand new 4K restoration of the the ...
• La Grande Illusion Blu-ray Detailed - January 23, 2012
Studio Canal has detailed their upcoming Blu-ray release of Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937), starring Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Erich von Stroheim, and Julien Carette. The German release is set to arrive in shops on February 16th, while the French release ...
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