Matt Conti’s review:
**Part of the Best Picture Project**
One of the biggest problems I have with the Best Picture Project is that I'm not really sure how to approach films like Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion. I mean, what can I really say about these masterpieces that haven't already been said?
I guess, I can just review them like they were any other film in the year, and forget about what others have said. So I'll do that here. Just forgive me if you've heard it all before, because everything that's been said about Grand Illusion is true.
Renoir's film is technically the first Foreign Language to be nominated for Best Picture, and it did so deservingly. Here is a film that is telling such a simple story and yet there is so much depth to the proceedings. The political and social commentary to this day still has a bite, and it does so by being refreshingly entertaining.
Renoir's direction is magnificent. To anyone not paying attention, you wouldn't believe some of the subtle things he does with camera movements and sound. Renoir is an auteur in every sense of the word. There's not a wasted moment in Grand Illusion, and for that reason, not a single moment of the film is dull. It's all built on characters and their relationships to each other, and that's how the commentary is built in, not people explicitly telling you "CLASS WARFARE IS FUCKING STUPID."
I'm not one of those types of people that laments the death of classic cinema saying "It was so much better back then!", but I do believe that films like Grand Illusion are sorely lacking in presence today and more of them *should* be made.