Wednesday, November 13, 2002

a grand illusion

We started watching Renoir's acclaimed La Grande Illusion yesterday. A WWI film that was classified as propaganda by the Germans during WWII, this is a simple moving account of people torn between sentimentalities and duty. Inspiring countless movie sequences (digging the escape tunnel in The Great Escape, the singing of La Marseillaise in Casablanca), this film makes all its points succinctly: choosing to delve not on the politics of war or the futility of it, but on destroying any illusions that people of like social stature on either side would continue to subscribe to the same morals of human behaviour (Roger Ebert seems to agree). The film has been on a lot of "classic film" lists and the reasons for that may escape a majority of people. Don't look for bravura technical wizardry (è la Citizen Kane or Vertigo) or bold deviations from conventions of narrative and plot (Last Year at Marienbad). Look instead for unobtrusive filmmaking that creates believable characters out of what might have easily been jingoistic clichéd stereotypes). The influence of this approach is evident on a lot of Indian parallel filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Govind Nihalani. Several moments in the film also reminded me of the old B&W Hindi films that I caught on the tube (these were the days when DoorDarshan aka Indian National Television opted for good considerate programming in the absence of the mixed bag of satellite television).

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