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La Grande Illusion
La Grande Illusion“A classic and watchable black-and-
  white film that deals with relationships
  between prisoners-of-war and also
  their captors during the First World War,
  La Grande Illusion is a fascinating eye
  on history...”

COVERING A RANGE OF ISSUES arising while at war with an enemy, including friendship, loyalty and romance, La Grande Illusion reflects on life as prisoners-of-war and the consequences of empathy with their captors.

In celebration of the film's 75th anniversary STUDIOCANAL, in association with La Cinémathèque de Toulouse, presents a beautiful new restoration of Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion, which was released in cinemas on 6 April 2012 and is to make its debut on DVD and Blu ray on 23 April 2012.

A poetic and poignant meditation on class, the nature of war and the death of the old European order, La Grande Illusion follows French air mechanic Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin) and Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) of Divisional Command who are shot down in the First World War and find themselves prisoners of the German aristocrat Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) of the German 21 Squadron.

“The fine and
compulsive La Grande
explores relationships
between allies and
Captain de Boeldieu comes from a very old and distinguished French aristocratic family, with which von Rauffenstein is familiar. The two men strike up an easy relationship, notwithstanding the fact that the two are from countries at war with each other. The two recognise that they belong to a cultural and social elite that is on the way out.

Moved to Officers Prisoner of War Camp number 17, Hallbach, de Boeldieu and Maréchal meet Lt Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), whose wealthy banker family send him very impressive food parcels which he shares with the others.

Although Boeldieu, Maréchal and Rosenthal have vastly different backgrounds, they are thrown together and become close; planning escape routes together as they are forced to submit to German orders.

Warned that they will be shot if they attempt to escape and having already witnessed one death because of it, they still join in the digging of a tunnel to get themselves out of the prison and safely back home.

Having successfully escaped and been recaptured a number of times, the three are sent to Officers Prisoner of War Camp number 14, Wintersborn, an imposing and forbidding castle high up in the mountains from which escape seems impossible.

The fortress, coincidentally, is commanded by von Rauffenstein and he and Boeldieu renew their acquaintance. Will Boeldieu betray his comrades or stand firm against the man who is his enemy but for whom he has a mutual liking and respect?

Tragedy looms and the consequences will affect the lives of those at the camp in very different ways, including a pair of escapees — one of whom becomes involved in a touching romance. La Grande Illusion also features Dita Parlo. Screenplay is by Charles Spaak and Jean Renoir; Music is by Joseph Kosma and the film is Directed by Jean Renoir.

The fine and compulsive La Grande Illusion brilliantly explores relationships between allies and enemies, with many amusing lines and situations. Most enjoyable is the scene where the prisoners of war give a concert, interrupted by news of the retaking of Fort Douaumont by the French whereby there is a powerful and enthusiastic rendition of the patriotic La Marseillaise.

The title and central theme of the film comes from British economist Norman Angell's Nobel Prize-winning essay. Angell theorised the cause for war is usually the pursuit of wealth; noting that ultimately war is never of benefit economically, and is therefore futile.

Renoir's own experiences as an aviator in WWI are recalled and Jean Gabin even wears Renoir's original uniform. The film includes news of the fall of Fort Douaumont to the Germans on 26 February 1916. Retaken by the French, Douaumont fell again shortly afterwards.

La Grande Illusion
was declared the 'Cinematographic Enemy Number One' by the Nazis after it won a prize at the Venice Film Festival and was banned. France soon also banned the film fearing that the anti-war message would be demoralising for troops.

The original negative was thought to have been destroyed in an Allied bombing raid on the laboratory where it was housed, but it had been confiscated by the Nazis and shipped to Berlin to the Reichfilmarchiv.

After the war, the Russian Zone included the Reichfilmarchiv and the negative was sent to Moscow before being returned undamaged to France in the 1960s to lay unidentified in storage at La Cinémathèque de Toulouse until the 1990s.

Having previously restored the film in 1997, STUDIOCANAL decided to complete a new restoration utilising cutting-edge 21st Century technologies. Scanning the original nitrate at 4k means that the film will be preserved now for at least another century.

An impassioned call for the unity of humankind across class and national boundaries, the film offers a quietly subversive social analysis of French society.

Nominated for Best Picture in 1939, La Grande Illusion is released newly restored and with exclusive extras by STUDIOCANAL on DVD and Blu-ray on 23 April 2012.

Technical Specifications

DVD — Certificate: U | Total Running Time: 109 Minutes (Approx) | B&W PAL | Feature Aspect Ratio: 16x9 | French Language with English Subtitles | Catalogue No: OPTD2387 | RRP: £19.99.

Blu-ray — Certificate: U | Total Running Time: 113 Minutes (Approx) | B&W PAL | Feature Aspect Ratio: 16x9 | French Language with English Subtitles | Catalogue No: OPTBD2365 | RRP: £19.99.


DVD — Introduction by Jean Renoir | Two shorts by Jean Renoir: Sur Un Air de Charleston and La Petite Marchande d'Allumettes | Original Theatrical Trailer.

Blu-ray — La Petite Marchande d'Allumettes from Jean Renoir (short movie) | Trailers: 1937 / 1958 (Introduced by Jean Renoir) | Françoise Giroud Remembers Shooting The Film | Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau | Success and Controversy by Olivier Curchod | John Truby talks about La Grande Illusion | Restoring La Grande Illusion (Images Only) | The Story of the Original Negative (by La Cinémathèque de Toulouse).

"The fine and compulsive La Grande Illusion brilliantly explores relationships between allies and enemies" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar

"Jean Renoir's masterpiece" — The Observer