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La grande illusion [StudioCanal Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: French  & German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: French, English, German
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: NR
  • Run Time: 113 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Blu-ray Release Date: July 31, 2012
  • List Price: $29.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

Jean Renoir’s (French Cancan; Boudu Saved from Drowning) war time classic La grande illusion arrives in a StudioCanal Collection edition fully restored and ready to be explored by a whole new generation of film buffs. The controversial 1937 WWI-based film earned itself a position on the German and French banned lists, being confiscated by Vichy officials and German occupying troops. It subsequently wouldn’t be screened again until 1958 negatives were found and the film finally restored.

The film itself is a microscope on the demolition of class and social mores in European society brought on by the brutality of war. It’s focused on two Frenchman from different walks of life taken as prisoners of war during World War I, one a simple mechanic, Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin) and the other an aristocrat, Captain De Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay). In their captivity, the two men meet a group of distinct individuals also taken captive by the Germans, including the rich son of a Jewish banker, Lieutenant Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) amongst others. In the feigned surroundings of normality and cultural etiquette, the prisoners are allowed to receive parcels of food, dine, and drink, but the underlying cruelty of their captors is always bubbling under the surface. Boeldieu and Marechal initiate an escalating series of escape attempts before finally escaping, only to be caught again and reunited in a cruel, impenetrable fortress commanded by a strict German officer, Von Raufenstein (Erich von Stroheim). But allegiances between the various captives are threatened when Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with Von Raufenstein based on their similar aristocratic backgrounds and the belief they both share that the old ways of European class structure will quickly be coming to an end.

Thrilling, dramatic, and romantic, La grande illusion easily turns a mirror on society and war without ever drifting into pontification. It is filled with A-class acting and gorgeous cinematography from Christian Matras, making it an all around classic that encompasses many elements that anyone can appreciate.

(Editor’s Note: The above review for this film was previously published as our La grande illusion [StudioCanal Collection] [UK] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures were taken from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

This Lionsgate release of the StudioCanal Collection La Grande Illusion has the identical video transfer from the previous UK release. As such, I still have the same concerns with it as I did before. The restoration is based an original camera negative owned by Cinémathèque de Toulouse and it looks exceptionally clean with dynamic contrast and excellent darks for its age, but at times looks like grain may have been a little too heavily suppressed. With that being said, I’m sure that 90% of the people who view this restoration will be quite happy with the results. I just find a few moments where, perhaps, skin textures look ever so slightly waxy or backgrounds seem a little flattened and smooth as does clothing. Still, overall, La grande illusion is pleasant and there are plenty of moments where the thin layer of grain and superb contrast work wonderfully together for a more than pleasing, even if not perfect image.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

This Lionsgate release for the US has the same French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit) and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit) dub as the previous UK release. As before, pops and clicks are minimal and dialogue sounds reasonably full.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

The supplements here re identical to the previous UK release other than two features have been removed, an early silent film by Jean Renoir based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale a, The Little Match Girl, and “Francoise Giroud Remembers Shooting the Film” in which the “script girl” from La grande illusion reminisces on the film’s production. I checked the French and German menus for these as well and they were not “hidden” there either. Additionally. This does not come in the same “deluxe” packaging as the UK release.

The supplements:

  • Trailer (1937)
  • Trailer (1958)
  • Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau (1.33:1; SD; 00:12:14) – The film scholar offers rather informed take on the history and production of Renoir’s classic.
  • The Original Negative… (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:11:59) – The rather convoluted provenance of Renoir’s film is explained in this interesting featurette.
  • Success and Controversy by Oliver Curchod (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:23:21)
  • John Truby Talks About La grande illusion (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:04:28)
  • Restoring La grande illusion (1080p/24; 00:03:24) – A quick and illuminating comparison of the original camera negative to the restored version showing several scenes.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

While this Lionsgate release strips some of the supplements from this StudioCanal Collection release for the US market versus its UK counterpart, it is ultimately still a strong release of a classic Renoir film and worth owning for any film lover.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase La grande illusion [StudioCanal Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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