Monday, September 7, 2009


Some of my favorite films (“2001,” “8 ½” and “Clockwork Orange”) struck a chord with me much more on the second viewing than the first. Jean Renoir’s “Rules of the Game,” is the best example of this for me. On the first viewing, I didn’t really get it, but on the next viewing, it became one of my favorite films.

Renoir’s other classic “Grande Illusion” may fall into that category too. On this, my first viewing, I saw a lot of great cinematic touches: The German officer and French officer’s common traits, including duty to country, the use of musical motifs for effect, the loneliness war brings to the German widow, groups of soldiers playing as children and children playing as soldiers, the French drag show turning into the patriotic “Marseilles” after a French victory, etc. Now that I’ve starting naming them, they seem to be numerous.

Notable performances include: Dita Parlo in a small role as the war widow, Erich Von Stroheim as the surprisingly sympathetic German officer, and Marcel Dalio as Rosenthal, a much less straight laced character here than I remember him playing in “Rules of the Game.”

What is the Grand Illusion? That this is the war to end all wars, that life changes when you pass imaginary borders or that true love wins out. Or is it something more sinister?

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