Rialto Anti-War Double Feature! Jean Renoir’s classic GRAND ILLUSION introduces us to a group of French officers who have been taken prisoner during World War I. In FORBIDDEN GAMES, 5-year-old Brigitte Fossey wanders into the French countryside after her parents are killed in WWII, and befriends 11-year-old peasant boy Georges Poujouly.
LA GRANDE ILLUSION
1937, Rialto Pictures, 114 min, France, Dir: Jean Renoir
Along with Renoir’s RULES OF THE GAME (1939), this has become a staple of all-time great film lists. With his usual deceptive simplicity, Renoir introduces us to a group of French officers who have been taken prisoner during World War I. They include an aristocratic career officer (the dashing Pierre Fresnay) and two lieutenants: Jean Gabin, the eternal Everyman of the French cinema, and Marcel Dalio, a witty Jew unashamed of his nouveau riche background. Like RULES OF THE GAME, GRAND ILLUSION is at once an elegant farewell to Europe’s ancient aristocracy and a profound warning against another world war that Renoir surely sensed was inevitable. Both films have a tremendous sensitivity to class, which in a lesser artist might have lapsed into mere elitism or, at the other extreme, sentimentality. At the core of the film is the friendship that the German commandant (Erich von Stroheim, the very definition of noblesse oblige) extends to Fresnay. In French with English subtitles.
1952, Rialto Pictures, 86 min, France, Dir: René Clément
When her parents are killed by an air strike while fleeing Paris during the German invasion, 5-year-old Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) wanders into the French countryside, where she encounters 11-year-old peasant boy Michel (Georges Poujouly). As they build a special, secret friendship, the adults around them play their own games of buffoonish peasant feuds. Ultimately beautiful, hilarious and disturbing, this masterpiece of French postwar cinema won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film.
Screening format: DCP