The Elusive Corporal (1962)
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Movie InfoHumorously echoing some of the directors's earlier work, the film stars Jean-Pierre Cassell as The Corporal, a French officer stuck in a German prison camp during WWII. His initial attempt at escape with comrades Pater (Claude Brasseur) and Ballochet (Claude Rich) ends in failure, when the latter loses his glasses. On the second attempt, they lock their guard in a urinal and jump on a truck that leaves them in a garbage dump, at the feet of some German soldiers. Not one to give up, The Corporal gets as far as a train on his next escape, where he meets an old friend (Sacha Briquet), trying to escape in drag, but he is captured once again, due to a mistake by another companion, Pencheagauche (Jacques Jouanneau). The Germans, unamused, send him to a Punishment Camp, where they try to break his will, and come close to succeeding. However, when a toothache sends him to the dentist, a brief dalliance with Erika (Cornelia Froboess), the dentist's daughter, seems to restore his spirits quite impressively. He continues to hatch escape plans which his captors continue to foil, even awarding him another trip to the Punishment Camp. Can freedom be denied to one who refuses to quit? An entertaining comedy, its generally farcical tone is sometimes broken by more realistic touches. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Elusive Corporal
This late addition to Renoir's impressively wide-ranging oeuvre is nevertheless suffused with the same warm and generous humanism as the great Règle du Jeu or Grande Illusion.
Tthe trace of philosophical implication makes it worth more than lightly passing through.
An ironic comedy of fake French heroics and real French heroism, the film is delicate and witty and features a delightful performance from Jean-Pierre Cassel.
Follows along the lines of the director's The Grand Illusion, but without that film's depth.
The tone is light and the repeated escape attempts are played with a comic undertone, yet behind the humor is the feeling of dignity lost...
Renoir draws a connection both to his past as a filmmaker and to Paris' past, emphasizing the senseless repetition of war and the timeless universality of man's fight for liberty.
This is a slight and sentimental tale from Renoir, for the most part played for laughs, but it is informed with a trademark humanism that is evident in his greatest work.
Audience Reviews for The Elusive Corporal
a few moments that border on melodramatic for '62 but also nuanced moments of beauty and thoughts about freedom; Cassel is greatMore
"The Elusive Corporal" starts with the French capitulation to German forces in 1940. All Guillaume(Jean Carnet), a soldier, wants to do now is return home and tend his pigs but the Nazis will not let him or any other French soldier leave. While the war may indeed may be over for the French, it is only just the start for the Nazis in trying to conquer all of Europe. That does not stop The Corporal(Jean-Pierre Cassel), Pop(Claude Brasseur) and Ballochet(Claude Rich) from giving it the old college try. Actually, Ballochet backs out at the last second while The Corporal and Pop are captured with a minimum of force. Next time will be harder since they are all being sent to Germany.
Directed by Jean Renoir with his customary finesse, "The Elusive Corporal" is a very engaging and life affirming tale of war that is more about rebelliousness than bravery. A lot of class conflict is touched on in the movie, especially around The Corporal who despite his wealthy background is only an enlisted man and I think a lot of that has to do with his problems with authority which never goes down that well in the armed forces. That also explains why he is consistently the only one to go over the wall, risking being sent off to a fortress(Colditz, perhaps?), as most of the other soldiers just try to get along. I did not understand his obsession with returning to France since that is now occupied territory(and I hear Switzerland is nice this time of year) until the final scene.
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