Grand Illusion (1937 D: Jean Renoir, W: Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak)
This is the one. A war movie that ignores the war, and concentrates on the men — yes, they’re all men — across nationalities. Even in wartime, class distinctions exist, and enmities are dismissed to share a glass of wine between aristocrats. Still, the lower class forms their own unions — in this film through a sort of vaudeville show, as well as a tunneled escape. Renoir examines all of them with a kind of gentle gaze. Eric von Stroheim plays the German calvary captain Von Rauffenstein, with a neck brace and a flower he tends to. Jean Gabin is Marechal, the charming representative of the working class prisoners. I dare you to watch even a minute of this and not be captivated til the end. Orson Welles said he’d take this movie “on the ark.” That’s high praise.
(and thus ends the 31 Day Film Challenge –http://readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore.blogspot.com/2013/07/31-day-film-challenge-rules.html)