The Jean Renoir Collection

04/06/2007
  |  Buy to Own: 04/06/2007
  |  755 min
Rated TBC by the BBFC

Synopsis

Seven films by French auteur Jean Renoir. 'La Grande Illusion' (1937) is a prison escape film, generally regarded as Jean Renoir's most popular film of the 1930s and one which, although often seen as a humane and pacifist indictment of war, offers an ambiguous perspective on class differences. Set in a WWI German prisoner-of-war camp, the film tells the story of three French soldiers, the working-class Marechal (Jean Gabin), the middle-class Jew, Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), and the aristocrat senior officer, Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay), who are held prisoner by Commandant Von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim). The film shows how a bond of sympathy exists more between the German Commandant and the senior French officer than between the three Frenchman of different classes. Even though Boieldieu sacrifices himself for the two others to escape, the film makes no attempt to conceal what they are returning to once their role as war heroes is over. In 'Le Caporal Epingle' (1952) an upper-class corporal from Paris is captured by the Germans when they invade France in 1940. 'La Marseillaise' (1938) is a news-reel like film about the early part of the French Revolution, shown from the eyes of individual people across the country. 'La Bete Humaine' (1938) is an adaptation of the novel by Emile Zola. Gabin plays a train driver who falls in love with a colleague's wife, Séverine (Simone Simon). Her jealous husband has already murdered his wife's former lover. In 'Le Testament Du Docteur Cordelier' (1959), a lawyer, Joly (Teddy Bilis), is disturbed when his friend, the eminent psychiatrist and researcher, Dr Cordelier (Jean-Louis Barrault), makes out a will leaving everything to a mysterious stranger, Opale (also played by Jean-Louis Barrault). In 'Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe' (1959), Etienne Alexis, a candidate for president of the new Europe, is a scientist promoting artificial insemination for social betterment and as a therapy to eliminate passion. Finally, in 'Elena et les Hommes' (1956), Polish countess Elena (Ingrid Bergman) falls in love with a French radical party's candidate in pre-World War I Paris - but another officer pines for her.