Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Included as extras on the DVD of LA GRANDE ILLUSION are two interesting shorts by the director Jean Renoir. The first is a version of Hans Andersen's tale "The Little Match Girl". LA PETITE MARCHANDE D'ALLUMETES (Rating ***) was co-directed by Renoir in 1928 with Jean Tedesco. Following the plot of Andersen's story the film features a long special effects sequence where Karen, the little match girl dreams that toys come to life and she falls in love with a toy soldier and is pursued through the clouds by death in the form of a hussar. The second film is the surreal short SUR UN DE CHARLESTON (Rating **) in which, in the year 2028, an African explorer (played in minstrel makeup by black performer Johnny Huggins) sets out to explore Paris which has become a decaying city populated by white savages. He lands his sphere like flying machine and is greeted by a white girl and her pet ape. She proceeds to teach him the Charleston which he sees as a sign of the decline of European civilisation and believes is a prelude to her eating him! Other reviews have commented that Renoir's wife Catherine Hessling, who stars in both films, was a poor actress and a hopeless dancer. Personally I found her appealing and charming in both films. To add to the surrealism of the frenetic dancing in this silent musical there is no musical soundtrack.

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