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our screening commemorates the centenary of the end of WWI.
Jean Renoir, son of famous painter Pierre-August Renoir , served in the French cavalry at the beginning of WWI and it was while recovering from taking a bullet in the leg that he became enamored of film by watching lots of Chaplin and Griffith movies. Later he became a reconnaissance pilot but was taken prisoner in April 1915. On his return to Paris after the war he determined to take up film-making being keen to articulate the strong current of anti-war feeling that swept France in the wake of World War I. However, he did not get the chance to adapt his war experiences until 1937.
So successful was the strong humanist message of Grande Illusion that, when Hitler's forces took Paris, his minister for propaganda (Goebbels) called the film “Cinematic Public Enemy No. 1” and ordered the original negative to be seized.
The Nazis had it sent to Berlin and at the end of the war it was shipped by the occupying Russian forces to Moscow, where it languished undiscovered for 30 years. Perhaps its precarious survival is why, when Orson Welles was unexpectedly asked in a TV interview what two films he would save in a crisis, he could think of only one by name: La Grande Illusion.
SouthBank CineClub Members FREE.
Guest membership £3.