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– Martin Scorsese

"REMAINS FRESH AND VIBRANT! This new 35mm print is a sparkling reminder of how a movie absorbed in its own historical moment and preoccupied with the legacies of the past can resonate into a future that lies beyond its specific range of imagination (while looking at least as luminous as it did when Mussolini first laid eyes on it)."
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Click here to read the full feature.


(1937) “I beg you, man to man, come back!” WWI, and it’s a POW camp for French man-of-the-people Jean Gabin and aristocratic officer 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.  Even Renoir didn't know of its existence and had to assemble a new dupe negative for a1958 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. Film Forum will be showing the restoration in 35mm, with newly-revised subtitles by Lenny Borger capturing the wit of the Renoir-Charles Spaak screenplay like never before. One of the legends of the cinema, GRAND ILLUSION now looks and sounds better than ever.




Academy Awards (1938)
    • Nominated, Best Picture (first foreign film to receive Best Picture nomination)

Venice Film Festival (1937)
    • Winner, Best Artistic Ensemble 

New York Film Critics Circle Awards (1938)
    • Winner, Best Foreign Film

National Board of Review Awards (1938)
    • Winner, Best Foreign Film

World Film and Fine Arts Festival of Belgium, 1952
    • 4th Place, Ten Best Films of All Time, Directors’ Choice (tied with City Lights and Le Million)

Brussels World Fair (1958)
    • 5th Place, Twelve Best Films of All Time

Cinémathèque Québecoise (1995)
    • 13th Place, 100 Best Films of All Time

French Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences (1978)
    • 2nd Best French Film of All Time

Toronto International Film Festival
    • Essential 100 Films: #21

Selected by the British film Institute as one of the 350 greatest film classics of all time, 1998

Time Out New York
    • Best Foreign Films of All Time: # 22

François Truffaut’s The Films of My Life: #7

The Spectator Magazine’s 50 Essential Films: #14

New GRADUATE poster




GRAND ILLUSION poster created by
legendary illustrator Paul Davis,
available for sale at Film Forum concession
during run of film ($30 plus tax)

Click here for larger version

Click here for a poster gallery of Paul Davis' artwork



*****! 5 STARS!
[highest rating]
"LOVINGLY RESTORED! A GEM THAT NOW LITERALLY SPARKLES FOR ITS DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY! Funny, heart-wrenching, nail-biting, caustic and profound, Grand Illusion touts the futility of armed combat while turning imprisonment and escape into a microcosm for society’s aspirations and contradictions."

– Stephen Garrett, Time Out New York

"AN OVERWHELMING EXPERIENCE! Has a robust humor and poignancy that tingle afresh... When European unity has again shown how fragile it can be, and polarizing ideologies have fractured democracies everywhere, Grand Illusion offers an unsentimental vision of common humanity."
– Michael Sragow, The New Yorker
Click here to read the full review.

"THRILLING AND HEARTBREAKING! A stunning example of Renoir's skillful melding of realism and glittering artifice."
– Kristin M. Jones, The Wall Street Journal
Click here to read the full review.

"No matter how many times film lovers shuffle and reshuffle their pantheons, Grand Illusion ends up near the top... Painterly control and humanist openness have never coexisted so easily in a single soul."
– David Edelstein, New York magazine

– Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice
Click here to read the full review

"In its ensemble perfection, Grand Illusion is a snapshot  of French cinema of the late 1930s at its absolute best. It is a classic in the terms defined by Frank Kermode: that is, a film not frozen in time, but open to different reading across times and cultures."
– Ginette Vincendeau, Sight & Sound

– Orson Welles

"ONE OF THE TRUE MASTERPIECES OF THE SCREEN! With Gabin, you’re not aware of any performance; with von Stroheim and Fresnay, you are — and you should be: they represent a way of life that is dedicated to superbly controlled outer appearances.”
– Pauline Kael

“Von Stroheim makes an indelible impression, as a man deluded by romantic notions of chivalry and friendship. It is a touching performance, a collaboration between the great silent director and Renoir, then emerging as a master of sound... Even many who have not seen the movie can identify stills of the wounded ace pilot von Rauffenstein, his body held rigid by a neck and back brace, his eye squinting through a monocle.”
– Roger Ebert

“Unquestionably, the most powerful moment of the film occurs after the announcement of the recapture of Douaumont by the French, when the ‘Marseillaise’ is sung by an English soldier dressed as a woman who takes off his wig as he sings it.’”
– François Truffaut

“Renoir’s masterpiece suggests that the true divisions of that conflict were of class rather than nationality... One of the key humanist expressions to be found in movies: sad, funny, exalting, and glorious.”
– Jonathan Rosenbaum

“In my authoritative list of the ten best films ever made, right at the top, or within the top five, is Renoir’s unforgettable Grand Illusion… With beautiful black-andwhite photography by Christian Matras, and a haunting score by Joseph Kosma, the picture has a deceptive simplicity and carries a rich poetic subtext that helps to make it deeply memorable... Seeing it at least once a year is a good idea.”
– Peter Bogdanovich

"Has retained the look, sound, and feel of a classic... Grand Illusion escapes the confines of the war movie genre. Scarcely a gun is fired in anger. The trenches are nowhere in sight. Yet through some alchemy, Renoir imbues the film with his passionate belief in man’s humanity to man. In no other work, indeed, does Renoir give such obvious validity to his famous credo about the world being divided socially in horizontal, not vertical, terms."
– Peter Cowie

"It is not enough to say that it has retained its power... The stature of the film remains undiminished by the passage of time."
– Andre Bazin