Everything I know in life, I learned from Colonel Klink.

26. La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)

Ranking Renoir:

  1. La Grande Illusion
  2. Partie de campagne
  3. La Regle du jeu
  4. Boudu Saved from Drowning
  5. The River
  6. The Crime of Monsieur Lange
  7. La Nuit de carrefour* (I watched this without subs, because the film is impossble to find in English, and by all accounts it doesn’t make sense anyway)

This is the only Renoir film I really get. But my appreciation of this film is more due to it being a World War One film than a Renoir film. For whatever reason I have always found WW1 very interesting. I think it’s that I am compelled by trench warfare. IT’s just so ridiculous in concept and execution. This style of fighting combined with it being the first war to be heavily documented by photographs and films, just gives it all a certain mystique. It’s the same reason why I am obsessed with old baseball players from that time. You can look at these still photos of people long since dead, and somehow you feel a connection to them, like you can solve the mystery of their life by looking in their eyes.

I remember when I worked at the library in high school, I always used to sign out these books on the war, primarily to look at the pictures. I remember one of a dead soldier with his face blotted out and the caption read: “his face has been obliterated by the censor”. That phrase has stuck with me ever since. I wish I could find the photo now.

As for the film, it’s another one I watched in the intro film class of 2002. It’s interesting because it’s a war film without any war in it. It’s set entirely in a prison camp. Kind of like Hogan’s Heroes. The film even has bumbling Germans in it. There’s less slapstick, and no though, and I think the film could definitely have benefited from Colonel Klink‘s brand of buffoonery. But I think that about every film.

On filmaffinity.com, I gave the film an 8/10. World War One films hold a special place in y heart, and it’s genuinely quite good. I even wrote a paper on it that got a A. I have no idea what it was about.

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