Tag Archives: Jean Gabin

La Grande Illusion

By Indy Datta

La Grande Illusion – which tells the story of a motley band of French POWs in captivity and on the run during the First World War – was Jean Renoir’s first major commercial success. In the early years of his career (after a short-lived flirtation with the idea of becoming a ceramicist) he had partially financed the string of loss-making silent films he made by selling paintings left to him by his father, the impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Although the advent of cinema sound had suited Renoir’s film-making almost from the start, with successes such as La Chienne and Boudu Sauvé des Eaux, La Grande Illusion – with its more expansive scope and scale and its cast of movie stars, including French man of the moment Jean Gabin – was a hit of a different order, and the first non English-language film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. Its success (along with the success of his next film, an adaptation of Zola’s La Bête Humaine) gave Renoir the kind of status as a film maker that couples freedom to money. He used that capital to make La Règle du Jeu, a scandalous failure that, the legend has it, drove Renoir out of the French film industry and into the arms of Hollywood. Continue reading La Grande Illusion