The Grand Illusion in Children of Paradise


Well, I’m just playing with movie titles a bit but I do like the sound of it…One of my favorite things to do in my spare-time is going to Trinity College’s movie theater Cinestudio here in Hartford, CT. Having studied cinema in college, there are classic movies I’ve seen before but rarely on the big screen. Seeing Casablanca on a big screen is of course a totally different experience as seeing it on a TV, no matter how big a screen you have. Last year, I saw two films that I’m amazed I never saw before. Both are from French directors that were key figures  in the poetic realism movement. First, Children of Paradise. Marcel Carné’s classic film has been touted as the French answer to Gone With The Wind. The film has been restored from the decaying original negative to ultra high-definition 4K Digital. Called the greatest of all French movies, the story is equally as interesting as the production itself, which was filmed in Paris during the German occupation of France during World War II. The story revolves around a beautiful and charismatic courtesan, Garance and the four men who love her. The costumes, the sets, the acting, everything about this film draws you in and holds your interest.  The writing is poetic, the characters are unforgettable. It speaks volumes about love, desire and self-truth and the ways in which those emotions are honestly expressed and dealt with. The cinematography, and here I really mean every frame,is beautiful! Okay, I guess I like the movie..a lot.


The second film is Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion. And this time, the thought kept crossing my mind while watching the movie… “I can’t believe I’ve never seen this film before!” Grand Illusion is considered one of the best films ever made and it’s certainly one of my top five. The story follows French aviators who are shot down, captured, and plot a dangerous escape while being held in a World War I German prison camp. Although the story is captivating and it’s commentary on class, race and war strikingly poignant, for me the draw is the depth of the characters and their dialogue, which effortlessly presents us with the notion of our universal humanity which transcends national and racial boundaries. “Grand Illusion is a story about human relationships. I am confident that such a question is so important today that if we don’t solve it, we will just have to say ‘goodbye’ to our beautiful world.” Jean Renoir.

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