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France, 1937, 114 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Classic, Dark Comedy, French/French Canadian, Historical/Period, War
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: French English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Jean Renoir
Producer: Albert Pinkovitch, Frank RollmerEditor: Marthe Huguet, Marguerite RenoirScreenwriter: Charles Spaak, Jean RenoirCinematographer: Christian MatrasPrincipal Cast: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Eric von Stroheim
MUST END Thursday, December 20th!
Brand NEW 35mm presentation! - WWI, and it’s a POW camp for French man-of-the-people flyboy Jean Gabin and aristocratic staff observer Pierre Fresnay after they’re shot down by equally
aristocratic German Erich von Stroheim. But meanwhile there are escapes — one by tunnel — to be planned; fellowship with Jewish moneybags Marcel Dalio, music hall cut-up Carette, and engineer Gaston Modot; a necessarily all-male musical revue, interrupted by a dramatic announcement; and a reunion with Stroheim at an escape-proof castle keep.
Partly inspired by stories of the air ace who had saved Renoir’s life in the war, this was, on the brink of another one, a celebration of the brotherhood of man, across class, across frontiers, as well a kind of elegy for an international aristocracy (Fresnay and Stroheim, going monocle to monocle, speak much of the time in English, a language no one else understands). Internationally acclaimed, Grand
Illusion received Best Foreign Film awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review, Best Overall Artistic Contribution from the Venice Film Festival (under Mussolini), and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture – the first ever for a foreign film.
Long acknowledged as one of the world’s great classics, GRAND ILLUSION was at one time thought lost. Declared "cinema enemy number one" by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, its camera negative was confiscated by the Germans soon after they occupied France in 1940, then sent to Berlin's Reichsfilmarchiv, which in turn was seized by the Red Army in 1945. Although the negative was completely intact and safely stored, even Renoir didn't know of its existence and had to assemble a new dupe negative for its 1958 reissue. In the mid-60s, the Cinémathèque of Toulouse, France, reached a détente with its Soviet counterpart. The GRAND ILLUSION negative was part of a film exchange, but it sat on a shelf in Toulouse for decades before anyone noticed. In the late 90s,
the material was transferred to the French State Film Archive for inventory and, in 1999, the first restoration was undertaken by Canal+ Image (now Studiocanal). In 2011, Studiocanal and the Cinémathèque de Toulouse embarked on a new restoration using the latest digital technology. The nitrate camera negative (which was still in remarkable condition) was digitized in 4K by the Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna. The sound was given special treatment; the nitrate variable density soundtrack was scanned, allowing a restoration with sharper sound quality. A 35mm record of the restored element will guarantee the film’s preservation for at least a century. The Sie FilmCenter will be showing the restoration in 35mm, with newlyrevised subtitles capturing the wit of the Renoir-Charles Spaak screenplay like never before. One of the legends of cinema, Grand Illusion now looks and sounds better than ever.
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