Previously Played


  • 5:10

$7 Member   $12.50 Regular

Part of the seriesTHE FRENCH OLD WAVE

See the complete schedule of films

New 35mm Print

Also screening Fri & Sat, Sept 7 & 8

– 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
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(1937, Jean Renoir) “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. Approx. 123 min. 35mm.




“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…”
– Roger Ebert

“A film about war without a single scene of combat, 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