During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
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
To get around the Nazis' ban on all films over 90 minutes in length, this single three-hour epic pretends that it consists of two quick 90-minute films. See more »
The positions of Avril and Lacenaire in the Turkish baths changes between the shot of their entry and the closer shot. See more »
[Reading a book in bed]
"Yet I'll not shed her blood nor scar that whiter skin than snow and smooth as monumental alabaster. Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men. Put out the light, and then - " Yes, let's put out the light. Good night, Desdemona. Good night, Othello.
[singing in the next room]
I am as I am, I'm made as you see. When I feel like laughing, I laugh heartily. I love those who love me. Am I really to blame? If a man that I love, is never the same?
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There are various alternate cuts of this film; the complete version runs 195 minutes and has been restored on video. See more »
It's one of the best films ever made and one of my favourite films, although the first time I attempted to see it at 14 years old in 1973 I didn't understand it at all. I tried again four years older and it won me over. Personal tastes vary not only between people but within people over time. Nowadays I can't understand why some people can't understand it and get nothing from this timeless world classic - at the very least they could look upon it as the closest the French cinema ever got to Dickens.
Meandering tale set in 1840's France has whimsically smiling Garance played by Arletty in love with mime artist Baptiste played perfectly by Jean-Louis Barrault but with three other men in love with her too. These are the Dramatic Actor Lemaitre played by Pierre Brasseur (Lucien from Le Quai Des Brumes), the cynically corrupt Lacenaire by Marcel Herrond (Renaud from Les Visiteurs Du Soir) and stiffly possessive Montray by Louis Salou. With Maria Casares as the faithful Nathalie the trouper in love with Baptiste and you have the main cast for your delectation. Just as the characters in the plays at the Funambules depended upon the pleasure of the audience up in "the Gods" so do the actors on the screen – although now thanks to TV and DVD us people up in the Gods are a lot more distant! The main thread is how and why all the tangled love affairs unravel. The film is littered with eccentric characters and heavy poetic observations, backed up with a logical plot, incredible sets and unforgettable acting – all made under the Nazi occupation. Adversity often heightens the senses, but Carne and Prevert excelled themselves with this production. Favourite bits: Baptiste proving Garrance's innocence of stealing a watch in mime to the assembled crowd; the touchy scenes inside the aptly-named Robin Redbreast pub; Garance and Lemaitre in the deeply shaded box at the Funambules watching Baptiste perform; his calling her beautiful and her response of "No, just alive, that's all"; Lemaitre revising the play in which he was acting on the stage; his opinion of mulled wine – "Like God slipping down your throat in red velvet breeches"; Lacenaire's lacerated opinion of everything – especially of Montray; the bookend bustling street scenes at the start and finish; the astounding ending; and on and on – so much richness to see and hear in three hours!
It's a world portrayed in great detail and lovingly, done in the best French tradition: dreamy, full of poetry, a frisson of sex and a little violence. As with me, it may need a little patience to cultivate this particular flower, but if you allow it into your heart it will never leave you again. Definitely High Art!
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