Last week, I posted an article on great World War 1 films. I soon realized that I missed some of the best. So here are three films that should have been in that earlier collection.
Set mostly in prisoner-of-war camps, Jean Renoir’s masterpiece finds sympathy between both sides of the conflict. Grand Illusion sets such differences as nationality and class against the healing power of our common humanity. The French prisoners and their German guards try their best to be civilized in a world where civilization is all but outlawed. Jean Gabin stars as a French officer of common stock, but you’ll likely remember Erich von Stroheim as an aristocratic German facing the end of his way of life. One of the last WW1 films made before WW2. Read my A+ appreciation.
A The African Queen (USA/Great Britain, 1951)
Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of the war traps an earthy, working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately-attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review.
A- Gallipoli (Australia, 1981)
Two young, exceptional sprinters (Mark Lee and Mel Gibson) meet at a competition, become friends, and go to war almost for a lark. At first, it all seems like fun–especially when they’re in Egypt and acting like first-world tourists in a third-world country. But then they’re shipped off to Turkey, where the British use the Australians as cannon fodder. The turning point is a visual masterpiece: handsome and happy young men frolic and swim in a bay…until shrapnel starts hitting the water’s surface.
I have a good excuse for missing Gallipoli in the earlier article: I hadn’t seen the movie in about 40 years. I just watched it for the second time Saturday on the Criterion Channel. [Note: My son swears that we saw this movie together about 20 years ago. It’s possible, but I have no memory of it.]