Children of Paradise (1944) A
(Les Enfants du Paradis)
One of the most beautifully lyric movies ever made, "Children of Paradise" is Marcel Carne's masterpiece of 1944; the movie was released in the U.S. two tears larer.
A truly romantic movie, written by the poet Jacques Prevert (who received an Oscar nomination), the film offers a meditation on the nature and varieties of love–sacred and profane, selfless and possessive. It is also a sumptuously made epic (running over 3 hours) about the relations between theatre and life.
Set in the theatrical world of Paris in the 1840s–the title refers to "the children of the gods," the rowdy patrons in the cheap seats–the film features a great ensemble: The alluring Arletty as the Garbo-like courtesan Garance; Jean-Louis Barrault as Baptiste, the delicate, soulful mime who loves her; the flamboyant Pierre Brasseur as a mugging Shakespearean actor Lemaltre (the Harlequin); and Marcel Herrand as the dangerous dandy Lacenaire, sort of a philosophical murderer; Pierre Renoir as the rag-picker-informer; Louis Salou as the count. Maria Casares has the unrewarding role of the theatre manager's daughter, who marries Deburau and becomes the mother of the abominable offspring.
An elaborately stylized epic of romantic yearning, betrayal and murder, the film is so indelible that some of its luminous scenes and images are known even to those who have never seen the film.
The film was made during the Occupation, and it is said that the starving extras made away with some of the banquets before they could be photographed. Made under difficult conditions in La Victorine studio in Nice, during the Nazi Occupation, "Children of Paradise" was shot in two parts to get around the Germans' regulation that no French film could be more than 90 minutes long.
Calling into question authority of the family, sexual repression and deviance, rigid gender role, the dependence of women on men, the film presents alternatives to patriarchal heterosexuality in the shape of Lacenaire's nonconformity, Frederick's promiscuity, Baptiste's androgyny, Garance's independence, which contrasts with Nathalie's monogamy.
Dubbed by some critics as France's "Gone With the Wind," the movie was recently voted the best French film of the century in a poll of 600 French film critics and professional,
Director: Marcel Carne
Running time: 193 minutes
Oscar Nominations: 1
Screenplay (Original): Jacques Prevert
Oscar Award: None
The winners of the Original Screenplay were Muriel and Sydney Box for "THe Seventh Seal."
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