During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Aviator André Jurieux has just completed a record-setting flight, but when he is greeted by an admiring crowd, all he can say to them is how miserable he is that the woman he loves did not come to meet him. He is in love with Christine, the wife of aristocrat Robert de la Cheyniest. Robert himself is involved in an affair with Geneviève de Marras, but he is trying to break it off. Meanwhile, André seeks help from his old friend Octave, who gets André an invitation to the country home where Robert and Christine are hosting a large hunting party. As the guests arrive for the party, their cordial greetings hide their real feelings, along with their secrets - and even some of the servants are involved in tangled relationships. Written by
The fact the movie was almost lost during the war is a myth: actually, the EXTENDED version was almost lost. The original movie shown in 1939 was 113 minutes, or maybe more. It was a relative failure, so Renoir cut it down to approx. 100 minutes and then again to 90 minutes (and even 85 minutes for theatres showing two movies). It was these 23 minutes that were thought to be lost during a WWII bombing. The situation remained unchanged until as late as 1958, when most of the original rushes were discovered and the long version reconstituted to 110 minutes, which is still the version showed nowadays. The parts that have been definitively lost correspond to two scenes for which sound exists, but not images. See more »
When the hunting party starts, the animals (notably the rabbits) barely move. Even when the beaters are close to them, they move at the last moment. This because the animals were not wild as the plot required, but actually bred in captivity and hence used to human presence. For information, the killing is real: many animals died during the movie. See more »
This is the film I usually think of as my favorite of all time. It is perhaps the closest that cinema has come to the perfection of a Mozart opera. I'm thinking of "Marriage of Figaro" and "Cosi fan Tutte" in particular as the Mozart operas most closely related to Renoir's cinema masterpiece. Like those operas, there is a masterfully proportioned blend of outrageous humor and deep pathos. It is a comedy, but it is a particularly civilized form of comedy that you will not encounter in another film, except maybe in some films of Charlie Chaplin. Above every human situation in the convoluted plot there is the all-pervading sadness for a fading civilization about to be extinguished. The ambiguities of that civilization are perfectly captured in two hours of cinematic heaven. Everything about this film is extraordinary, and I long to see it issued on DVD, and only Criterion will be able to do it justice. I hope they will turn to it soon!
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