40. Spirited Away (2001)
Written by Hayao Miyazaki
That’s a good start! Once you’ve met someone, you never really forget them. It just takes a while for your memories to return.
No writer/director on this list may be more fantastical than the great Hayao Miyazaki,
Directed by Marcel Carné
Starring Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, and Pierre Brasseur
France, 190 min – 1945.
Les Enfants du Paradis is a film about that class of people that hangs on the outskirts of 1820s and 30s French society, exuberantly enjoying theatre productions in the ‘Boulevard du Crime.’ It is very much a piece that celebrates the bohemian artist (of an earlier generation than the famed bohemians depicted in Moulin Rouge) and the tragedies of love. This love centers around the beautiful woman-about-town and artist, Garance (Arletty), and the four men who fall in love with her: Jean-Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault), a famous pantomime actor, Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur), an aspiring, classical actor, Pierre-François Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), a criminal, and finally, Count Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou), a rich aristocrat. Each man falls in love with Garance, but she only gives her heart to one of them.
Prometheus (20th Century Fox) Ridley Scott’s quasi-prequel to his 1979 classic “Alien” has an intergalactic exploratory team (Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba) arriving on a uncharted planet, where they discover what appears to be a dormant alien spacecraft and what might be the first discovery of intelligent life outside of Earth. Of course, everything goes straight to hell before you can scream “Don’t touch that egg!” Sumptuous visuals and strong performances from the cast (not to mention a nearly-perfect first half) can’t compensate for gaping plot and logic holes that nearly sink the proceedings in the film’s protracted second half. It feels as though some very crucial footage wound up on the cutting room floor. Perhaps, as with “Alien” and “Aliens” we’ll see a “Director’s Cut” of “Prometheus” arriving on DVD within the next year. In the meantime,
Pages flipped by a dark gloved hand inform us that our tale is set in the Middle Ages, May of 1485. Two of the devil’s envoys,
“Children” is the superior of the two, a film that has often been voted the best French film of the last century. It’s often compared to “Gone with the Wind” in its epic scope (it’s 190 minutes long) or at least that’s how it was sold in some markets — “The French Gone with the Wind!” The film is actually much more ambitious thematically than the American epic as wonderfully detailed in
This vibrant three-hour epic was made during the German occupation by director Marcel Carné, poet Jacques Prévert and designer Alexandre Trauner, the chief creators of the so-called poetic realism that dominated French cinema in the late 1930s. The film then enjoyed a triumphant reception at its premiere in March 1945, just two months before Ve Day, when it helped assert the indomitable spirit of French culture and restore national pride.
The Nazi regime forbade direct reference to the war or any currently controversial matter, so the setting is the Parisian theatre of the 1830s, which is given a Balzacian social scope and dramatic vigour. Pierre Brasseur and Jean-Louis Barrault play rival actors, one a Shakespearean star, the other a brilliant mime, both of them in love with the cool, graceful Arletty's much-sought-after courtesan, who's also admired by a charismatic criminal and an aristocrat.
Children of Paradise has been called the greatest movie ever made in France, their equivalent to Gone With the Wind. Originally released in 1945 and directed by Marcel Carné, the three-hour historical epic is big in scope and ideas, and yet it is simplistic in its story about four men in love with the same woman. The excellent Criterion Collection label released the picture on DVD several years ago, but now they have given it the deluxe treatment with Pathé’s 2011 restoration and uncompressed monaural soundtrack in new Blu-ray and DVD editions. It looks and sounds amazing.
The story of the film’s production is just as fascinating as the picture itself. Made in Vichy France during the Nazi Occupation, Carné and his collaborator/writer Jacques Prévert had to work in secrecy, for the Nazis acted as “studio executives” and approved everything being made. The production designer and music composer were Jews,
I first saw Les Enfants du Paradis when I was about 16 and still at school. I was completely intoxicated by it. What I found so thrilling was the way it portrayed the world of the theatre. It made me realise that this was a place where art happened: it wasn't just a lot of nonsense. It was about the development of the soul: people spent their whole lives in the theatre and relished it and grew in it. I think that had a big effect on my decision to become an actress.
The film is set in the mid-19th century, but it was made in the early 1940s, while France was under German occupation, and what an extraordinary achievement
Price: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95
Jean-Louis Barrault stars in Marcel Carne's Children of Paradise.
Poetic realism reached sublime heights with Marcel Carné’s 1945 romantic drama Children of Paradise, which is widely considered one of the greatest French films of all time.
A classic depiction of 19th century Paris’s theatrical demimonde, Les enfants du paradis follows a mysterious woman (Arletty, The Pearls of the Crown’s) loved by four different men (all based on historical figures): an actor, a criminal, a count, and, most poignantly, a street mime (Jean-Louis Barrault, La ronde).
Directed with sensitivity and dramatic élan (during World War II, no less!) director Carné (Port of Shadows) and screenwriter Jacques Prévert (Le jour se lève) bring to life a world teeming with hucksters and aristocrats, thieves and courtesans, pimps and seers, and, of course, love and sorrow.
Released previously by Criterion in
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