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La grande illusion [StudioCanal Collection] [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit), German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Run time: 113 Mins.
  • Studio: StudioCanal
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 23, 2012
  • RRP: £19.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B007BL63CK[/amazon-product]

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

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.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

While this StudioCanal Collection restoration, based an original camera negative owned by Cinémathèque de Toulouse looks exceptionally clean with amazingly dynamic contrast and excellent darks, I think it 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. Still, overall, La grande illusion is pleasant and there are plenty of moments where the very thin layer of grain and superb contrast combine with the excellent photography to send a few chills down the spine. However, I just can’t shake the feeling, when I look at it, that it seems a little too “scrubbed” of texture in most spots.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The original French monaural soundtrack is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit) encodement. It is full, clean, and intelligible with very little in the way of pops, clicks, hiss or crackle. One would think this is as close to the original as was intended. There is also a German dub provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit).

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

The various on-disc supplements are all provided in European framerates in either SD or HD, so the appropriate viewing equipment will be necessary to access them.

  • The Little Match Girl – An early silent film by Jean Renoir based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale.
  • Trailer (1937)
  • Trailer (1958)
  • Francoise Giroud Remembers Shooting the Film – The “script girl” from La grande illusion reminisces on the film’s production.
  • Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau – The film scholar offers rather informed take on the history and production of Renoir’s classic.
  • The Original Negative… (HD) – The rather convoluted provenance of Renoir’s film is explained in this interesting featurette.
  • Success and Controversy by Oliver Curchod (HD)
  • John Truby Talks About La grande illusion
  • Restoring La grande illusion (HD) – A quick and illuminating comparison of the original camera negative to the restored version showing several scenes.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

A solid release from the StudioCanal Collection of a Renoir classic, La grande illusion should rightfully adorn any cinephile’s shelf, proudly. In the catalogue of wartime dramas, the film ranks somewhere near the top, most definitely in the top 20, at the very least, of all time. I can’t put an exact number on it myself, because there are so many films, my personal preference seems to change depending on which one I’m watching at the time.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B007BL63CK[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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

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