During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
A charismatic thief makes friends with a bankrupt baron who comes to live in the thief's slum. Meanwhile the thief seeks the love of a young woman, who is held emotionally captive by her slumlord family.
The location: Nazi occupied Rome. As Rome is classified an open city, most Romans can wander the streets without fear of the city being bombed or them being killed in the process. But life ... See full summary »
During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape... Written by
Every time I watch this I find something else I hadn't thought of before, every viewing is an augmented experience. Things I hadn't spotted at 11, 19, 22 etc I spotted last night, mostly inconsequential but still adding to the picture 36 years after my first time. That to me is the difference between great films and Great films, one of the reasons why this ostensibly simple movie is one of the all time Greats.
And it is simple (the simplest things are usually the best) - boring to some people who sadly will never understand its logic and magic - an absorbing prisoner of war tale that is also a prisoner of class tale. It defines that class loyalties are more meaningful than patriotism even if not always practical, and that to those who consider themselves to have breeding it's far more important to have "blood" than capital. Boldieu and Rauffenstein embody this, they both knew their chivalric world order was being gradually diminished - the next war will and was led by people without breeding, types like Marechal and Rosenthal who fought on. The most significant borders are not between countries, races, religions, sexes or ages but those between the classes. Renoir was at his most inspired with Illusion, with so many memorable images and set-pieces, an engrossing storyline even when down to trying to say blue eyes in German or being posh by gossipping in English, and fantastic acting by all concerned. Everything has already been covered and better in previous posts, but I would add I don't understand why Regle du jeu is the Renoir film that gets the kudos today - unless by being deliberately more obscure it appeals to influential Artheads.
The French film I love the most.
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