The young daughter of an army captain missing in action runs away from school and is kidnapped by Parisian lowlifes. When the kidnapper flees to Nice with the child, the kind-hearted employee of one of his accomplices sets off in pursuit.
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A series of misfortunes befalls young Marie-Laure. Her army captain father goes missing in action, her mother dies of grief, her guardian is called away to war and she is sent to a harsh boarding school. She runs away and is kidnapped by Le Bachelier, a Parisian lowlife. Left to be treated as a slave in the house of a drunken cobbler, she's befriended by Bosco, the cobbler's teenage hunchback employee. Then her father returns unexpectedly, and Le Bachelier extracts a ransom with no intention of setting the girl free. With the police closing in, he flees with Marie-Laure to Nice, but kind-hearted Bosco sets off in pursuitWritten by
Des de Moor
The Child of Paris is the one feature included on Kino's early film collection Gaumont Treasures. This Dickensian story follows a young girl from a privileged background who becomes separated from her family. First, she is placed in a boarding school and then later falls into the hands of a drunk cobbler and the leader of a band of thieves. Our heroine has one friend, Bosco the cobbler's assistant. The film is not as melodramatic as it could have been. For instance, no one at the boarding school is physically abusive to the young girl. It is probably even a good school, just not for a depressed child who thinks she has lost everything.
The Child of Paris was made two years before Birth of a Nation. My knowledge of features from that era is limited, making a fair assessment of The Child of Paris difficult. I have watched Cabiria (made a year later) and remember it fondly. I have also watched The Last Days of Pompeii (also made in 1913) and found that film a struggle to finish. Otherwise, my frame of reference for pre-Birth films is limited to shorts. All that aside, I would still wager that this film was ahead of its time. There are a handful of wonderful moments (the escape from the boarding school; the returning hero saluting the crowd as his heart is breaking; and Bosco on a hilltop framed against a glittering sea in Nice). All of these make this film memorable.
On a personal note, I found the film somewhat prolonged at 124 minutes. The story appears to end at about the halfway point but then the villain gets away with the girl at the last moment. The second half focuses on Bosco, the little heroine's one friend, trying to save her. The film gets a little bogged down in scenes of Bosco in Nice (despite some wonderful scenery).
The Child of Paris is a good film and of historical importance. Kino deserves much thanks for rescuing this title. However, although I liked the film, my enthusiasm is not as strong as the other reviewers.
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