Strolling indolently around the 1830s vibrant Parisian avenue called the Boulevard du Crime, the graceful and elusive courtesan, Garance, finds herself wrongfully accused of pickpocketing. But, amid a sea of jugglers, sideshow performers, streetwalkers, and crooks, the silently eloquent mime, Baptiste, comes to her rescue, only to hopelessly fall for her. And just like that, love's sweet torture befalls the delicate pantomimist, as the insufferable burden of knowing that the object of his desire can never belong to anyone, will heartlessly haunt him for years to come. Many have tried to seize her heart--the flamboyant thespian, Frédérick Lemaître; the criminal dandy, Pierre-François Lacenaire, and the imperious but loveless Count, Édouard de Montray--however, Garance, after so many barren years, now seems to need only one man. In the end, trusting a frail and modest rose is beautiful but cruel. Is there anyone who can accept the naked truth of an unrequited love?Written by
One day in 1966 I was walking along 8th Street in the Village. The Village was where I went when I had no where else to go, when I belonged no where, where I thought I could discover myself. It didn't hurt that there were people to stare at, without being too obvious about it.
It was a gray day and it started to rain. I stopped under the first protection I found, a movie marque - neither handsome nor attractive.
The photos promoting the film were behind glass at odd angles, held by tacks. I just wasn't in the mood. It wasn't what I was looking for. But the rain got worse, and I needed warmth. So I bought my ticket to join the twenty or so people who comprised the full audience.
From its first moment, the film pulled me in. After a frenetic start, it quieted to Jean-Louis Barrault sitting alone on a barrel. I'd seen Marceau before, but not until now had I seen the quiet poetry of true mime.
Barrault's character, Baptiste, had silently observed the theft of a watch. Baptiste pantomimed the theft but staged his pantomime as if people's perceptions were a mistake, as if the theft never took place. In the doing, he made everyone laugh. He did this for the love of Garance, played by Arletty, whom he had seen for the first time.
There follows in the film first love - unrequited, poetic, soulful. We see villainy, melodrama, danger, heroism, satire, plays within plays - a host of stories all integral to the whole of the play. And we believe completely.
It is the most complete film ever made. It changed my life.
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