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Orson Welles once said, “If I had only one film in the world to save, it would be Grand Illusion.” Thankfully he wouldn’t have had to worry, as the film world continues to treasure Jean Renoir’s mega-classic. This week in New York, years after its famed late-nineties restoration, the movie returns, with more restoration done digitally by STUDIOCANAL and the Cinémathèque de Toulouse for its seventy-fifth anniversary. This new 35 mm print from Rialto Pictures promises to be the most vivid version yet seen, and features a major audio restoration as well, plus new subtitles. Film Forum will show the rejuvenated masterpiece May 11–May 24.
Preservation efforts aside, to revisit Renoir’s overwhelming work of compassion in wartime is to fall back in love with screenwriters Renoir and Charles Spaak’s eloquently drawn characters: Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay’s socially opposed POW French officers; their antagonist, the Teutonic officer Captain von Rauffenstein, played by Erich von Stroheim; Marcel Dalio’s generous Jewish fellow captive; Dita Parlo’s good-hearted German farm widow. Here’s Rialto’s new trailer for the film to reacquaint you with Renoir’s beautiful souls.