Renoir's war

A newly struck print allows the great Grand Illusion to shine again

The movie's title has always been a puzzle. Does it refer to the optimistic belief, propagated at the time, that the First World War would be "the war to end all wars"? Or to the general misconception that any war can settle political conflicts? Even more disheartening, perhaps it's the illusion that people can overcome their snobberies and animosities. In extreme situations people repeatedly have proven themselves capable of doing just that -- of putting aside matters of race, religion, nationality, and class to work together toward a common goal. But it never lasts; deep-rooted prejudices and hatreds always resurface. Only one thing is certain in Renoir's great pacifist movie: that prisoners will always try to escape, only to return to fight again.

Masters of war: Pierre Fresnay, left, and Erich von Stroheim consider the Grand Illusion -- the Jean Renoir film, not the Styx album.
Masters of war: Pierre Fresnay, left, and Erich von Stroheim consider the Grand Illusion -- the Jean Renoir film, not the Styx album.

Details

Starring Jean Gabin, Erich von Stroheim, Pierre Fresnay, and Marcel Dalio

Opens October 1

Directed by Jean Renoir
Written by Renoir and Charles Spaak

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