“Frontiers were invented by man, not nature.”
Filled with magical moments and the director’s wisdom and love of mankind, Jean Renoir’s moving pacifist masterpiece about a World War I P.O.W. camp in Germany shows a society where class and backgrounds trump nationality, where engineers stick with engineers and aristocrats with aristocrats despite being enemies, until barriers of differences are overcome through shared experiences and common humanity.
This stunning transfer is taken from the original 1937 negative, which was restored in 2012, repairing all damage, eliminating all debris, and bringing the picture back to its original magnificent appearance. Contrast is excellent, with inky blacks in Jean Gabin’s cap, uniform, and sweater; bright whites; and a fine wide range of grays. Bright images are crisp, and plentiful detail reveals textures of costumes and individual hairs in fur collars with everything distinct and well defined. There’s depth to images, solidity and volume to figures, and roundness in the gorgeous sculptural close-ups of Gabin’s iconic face. Just enough grain adds to the film-like look.
In the mono soundtrack (which emerges from the left and right channels), militaristic music is slightly tinny, voices brittle at times, and there’s some echoing, but the sound is always clear and fairly full and open and there’s no popping, clicking, or hiss. A decent package of extras only adds to the pleasure.
Video: 1.37:1. Audio: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Extras: “La Grande Illusion: Success and Controversy” and “The Original Negative of La Grande Illusion” new documentaries, “Restoring La Grande Illusion” featurette, appreciation by cinema professor and film critic Ginette Vincendeau, John Truby film presentation, trailers from 1937 and 1958 hosted by Renoir. Studio: Lionsgate.