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Courtesy of Rialto Pictures

Law Building, Lower Level
1001 Bissonnet
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Directed by Jean Renoir

1937, in French with English subtitles



114 minutes



Grand Illusion

La grande illusion

Orson Welles said of this undisputed masterpiece, “If I had to save one film in the world, it would be Grand Illusion.” During World War I, two French soldiers–an aristocrat (Pierre Fresnay) and a mechanic (Jean Gabin)–are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress commanded by Captaine von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim).

“Son to his famous painter father, Renoir sublimated [the  emotions of impending war] into the precision of his compositions, which helps to explain the recurrence of a kind of paradigmatic shot that frequently punctuates Grand Illusion: a character (or group of characters) stands before a window. The camera traps them within the window frame like specimens beneath a bell jar, then moves beyond them to limn the open spaces just outside their reach, rendering palpable their yearning to escape from a certainly hopeless situation into one still hopefully uncertain.” —Slant Magazine

The MFAH film department is supported by Tenaris; The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Nina and Michael Zilkha; the National Film Preservation Foundation; Franci and Jim Crane; James V. Derrick; Ms. Melanie Gray and Mr. Mark Wawro; and Lynn S. Wyatt.