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Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion at the Vista Theatre

Don't miss out on a very special screening of Jean Renoir’s 1937 masterwork Grand Illusion -- one of the greatest movies of all time -- playing 8:15pm at the Vista Theatre as part of Secret Movie Club's Unexpected Holiday Classics series.

Following the struggles of a group of French prisoners of war during World War I, Grand Illusion begins as a movie about life in a prisoner of war camp only to subtly grow to a movie about how we are more divided along lines of class than nation in this world than a prison escape movie to end with one of the greatest third acts in all of cinema (which happens to take place around Christmas time).

Starring one of France’s most beloved golden age actors, the always charismatic and vital Jean Gabin, along with a cast of Renoir regulars, Grand Illusion somehow gets right at the heart of what it means to be human with a tolerance and empathy only achieved by the most sublime works of heart.

This movie is so good and effective at proving the shared humanity of all peoples that the Nazis considered it “Enemy Number One” when World War II began. The Nazis felt if people saw it, they would be reminded of the futility of war, propaganda, and hate in the face of shared human longing.

The most wonderful irony is that the Nazis stored a print of this movie in their vaults. And it was in the Nazi vaults that the print was discovered at the end of the War, untouched, perfectly preserved, and ready to be shared with the entire world.

Grand Illusion (1937)
Directed by: Jean Renoir    
Written by: Charles Spaak & Jean Renoir
Cast: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim
Language: France | German | English | Russian
Runtime: 103 minutes
Distributors: The Criterion Collection