Grand Illusion

Movie Information

In Brief: If you don’t know Jean Renoir, it’s time you did, and Grand Illusion (1937) is the best place to start. Generally considered an anti-war film — and it is one — Grand Illusion is really too many things to be neatly pigeonholed by genre. It’s a World War I story — essentially a story about French prisoners of war escaping from a German prison — but it’s a subdued one that’s more about character than action. (In other words, Jerry Bruckheimer wouldn’t touch it with a stick.) And it’s as much about the end of the European ruling class, about the passing of an age, as it is about war. Is that passing age the “Grand Illusion” of the title? Yes, but that isn’t all — there are other illusions here. Powerful, powerfully made and boasting an array of flawless performances — including Erich von Stroheim in perhaps his most famous role — Grand Illusion achieves that rare distinction of having a precise vision of an earlier time, making that vision relevant to its own time and remaining strangely contemporary in any age. A deeply beautiful work.
Genre: War Drama
Director: Jean Renoir
Starring: Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Dita Parlo, Erich von Stroheim, Julien Carette
Rated: NR

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Grand Illusion Friday, April 1, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 828-273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.