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Directed by Jean Renoir

France 1937 114 mins. In French

A humanistic, sensitive masterpiece nearly unparalleled in cinema history, Renoir’s WWI drama concerns the trials and tribulations of a group of French POWs under German imprisonment. Most of the group are working-class, led by Lieutenant Maréchal (an unforgettable Jean Gabin); they scheme and plot—sometimes to the point of revolt—to escape the prison camp, meanwhile reveling in the stories of their lives at home during finer, non-combat times. Captain De Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), however, who was captured with Maréchal by the German von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim in one of his finest roles), develops a sympathetic yet ultimately tragic relationship with the German, who comes from a similarly upper-crust background. A deep and perceptive study of liberty, equality, and fraternity, Renoir’s masterwork is “one of the key humanist expressions to be found in movies: sad, funny, exalting, and glorious.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Reader. In French with English subtitles.