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Grand Illusion (The Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim, Julien Carette
  • Directors: Jean Renoir
  • Writers: Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak
  • Producers: Albert Pinkovitch, Frank Rollmer
  • Format: Black & White, Special Edition, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780020707
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,712 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Grand Illusion (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • A rare filmed introduction by Jean Renoir
  • Archival radio presentation: Renoir and Erich von Stroheim accept the film's Best Foreign Film award at the 1938 New York Film Critics Circle Awards
  • Re-release press book excerpts: Renoir's letter "to the projectionist," cast bios, an essay on Renoir by von Stroheim, essays about the film's title and the recently recovered original camera negative

Editorial Reviews

One of the very first prison escape movies, Grand Illusion is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece stars Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay, as French soldiers held in a World War I German prison camp, and Erich von Stroheim as the unforgettable Captain von Rauffenstein. Following a smash theatrical re-release, Criterion is proud to present Grand Illusion in a new special edition, with a beautifully restored digital transfer.

Customer Reviews

Grand Illusion is one of his great films.
C. O. DeRiemer
The French prisoners of war get on rather well with their German guards in this movie.
JR Pinto
This is simply one of the greatest films EVER made.
A. Conrad

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lellouche on January 10, 2000
Format: DVD
Grand Illusion is sometimes considered as one of the greatest movies ever shot. It was Orson Welles' favorite. Even though many consider that "Rules of the Game" is more important and brillant. The two movies are very different, both incredible. Grand Illusion is easier to catch immediatly while Rules let you think endlessly. In regard of the DVD : BUY IT EYES CLOSED ! The picture is incredible, looks like it was shot yesterday because coming from the original re-found negative film. It has not even one small spot or crack. It is PURE. And it is the original 114 minutes version, not the well-known 105 minutes. The DVD is full of bonus, the best being the filmed introduction by Jean Renoir, and also the audio archive of Von Stroheim. I cannot express how much I love Renoir and this movie and I hope that Rules of the Game will come up in DVD soon in Zone 1 (it exists in France in Zone 2 with a beautiful master, but has no english subtitles). Then the world can contemplate this masterpiece again and again. Buy Grand Illusion and you'll never think of war and humanity the same way again.
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123 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Nowhere Man VINE VOICE on December 2, 1999
Format: DVD
The Criterion Collection has been batting 1.000 lately by bringing out splendid DVD versions of such classic films as "The Wages of Fear","The Passion of Joan of Arc" and "The Third Man". Now, with "Grand Illusion", they may have even surpassed themselves.
The transfer is from an original camera negative thought to be lost for decades and it can't be rivalled for image clarity or sound quality (given that this is a 62-year old film). The DVD version of "Grand Illusion" looks as close as we can hope to its original state.
The film itself is a poignant examination of the conflict between class and national identity during World War I. Three French officers - an aristocrat (Pierre Fresnay), a rich Jewish banker (Marcel Dalio), and a working-class capitian (Jean Gabin) - are captured and imprisoned by a refined, arrogant German officer (von Stroheim). The French and German aristocrats share a deeper cultural and affetionate bond than they do with the men of their respective countries. When the French captives plan an escape, the aristocratic officer risks himself for a nationalism he doesn't believe in. The scenes between Fresnay and von Stroheim, arguably some of the tenderest scenes in the movie, display a ritual of noblesse oblige that seems absurd today (the people in the cinema where I saw it laughed at these men's tender missives to each other). And, indeed, these aristocratic manners are patently absurd in the theater of modern warfare.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Toshifumi Fujiwara on May 22, 2000
Format: DVD
One of the greatest achievement in film history, this Jean Renoir's masterpiece could be seen only in prints and video made from an inferior duplicate neagtive for over 40 years, as the original film elements was thought to be lost during the German occupation (Goebbels and Hitler hated the film, and banned it in Germany at its original release). If you have seen only these versions, you haven't really seen it yet! The new transfer, made from the newly-discovered original camera negative (i.e., the best film element available) is just stunning. For the viewers familliar with the film, there is an added surprise at the begining, for the credit title sequence is different. The crisp trasnfer allow viewers to appreciate the depth of Renoir's masterful direction, for you can see a lot of details that might be lost in inferior prints: for Renoir, it is not just the protagonists that are important, but the whole atmosphere that surrounds them, including the delicious performance from the supporting cast (the Jean Renoir Stock Company, such as Julien Carrette, Gaston Modot and Jean Daste) which makes this film more than just an anti-war film. The DVD also includes the trailer from the 1958 re-release, featuring Jean Renoir himself passionately telling what this movie is all about: "it is a story of people like you and me, caught in the tragedy called war". Grand Illusion is a story of survival, of people who want to live in their best way possible, within their humain limitation. Limitation, for the people can act only within their social class behaviour and their social role. But Renoir never condems or criticize them; the film embraces even the flaws in their perosnalities. It's a great film, and a must-have DVD.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Blahblahblah on May 1, 2002
Format: DVD
Orson Welles, who was not known for his modesty, said that if a cabinet containing every film ever made caught fire and he only had time to run in and rescue one film, it would be the Grand Illusion (not Citizen Kane, etc). Most people watching this film today might wonder why it warrants such high praise. I say this because many of the themes in this film have been dealt with memorably in other films (the first time I saw the Grand Illusion, for example, I couldn't help thinking that I preferred Stalag 17). As a result, the film appears to be less original than it actually was. Modern audiences are also not used to the movie's themes being dealt with so subtly (no bodies are graphically blown up to show the horrors of war, no lower class characters are unjustly executed, etc). Thus it will not attract as much widespread popular praise as such overblown garbage as Saving Private Ryan (which is a complete and utter failure as an anti-war movie after its opening 10 minute gorefest ends). In contrast, this film has a subtle depth which elevates its effectiveness and will keep the viewer thinking long after it ends.
There are many illusions dealt with in the film. The interaction between the upper class prisoners and the prison camp's commandant (excellently performed by Erich Von Stronheim) illustrates the illusion of civility that exists (or should I say existed) during war (people pretending to be civilized while trying to wipe each other out). It illustrates the illusion of nationalism (except for the war, the officers are kindred spirits). The illusion of class is also well portrayed with the commandant arbitrarily showing less favour to some prisoners because of their last name and for no other reason.
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