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A True Masterpiece
gftbiloxi18 April 2005
CHILDREN OF PARADISE has a history almost as remarkable as the film itself. Production was just beginning when Paris fell to the Nazis; the work was subsequently filmed piecemeal over a period of several years, much of it during the height of World War II. And yet astonishingly, this elaborate portrait of 19th Century French theatre and the people who swirl through it shows little evidence of the obvious challenges faced by director Marcel Carne, his cast, and his production staff. CHILDREN OF PARADISE seems to have been created inside a blessed bubble of imagination, protected from outside forces by the sheer power of its own being.

The story is at once simple and extremely complex. A mime named Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) falls in love with a street woman known as Garance (Arletty)--and through a series of coincidences and his own love for her finds the inspiration to become one of the most beloved stage artists of his era. But when shyness causes him to avoid consummation of the romance, Baptiste loses Garance to her own circle of admirers--a circle that includes a vicious member of the Paris underworld (Marcel Herrand), rising young actor (Pierre Brasseur), and an egotistical and jealous aristocrat (Louis Salou.) With the passage of time, Garance recognizes that she loves Baptiste as deeply as he does her... but now they must choose between each other and the separate lives they have created for themselves.

While the film is sometimes described as dreamy in tone, it would be more appropriately described as dreamy in tone but extremely earthy in content. Instead of giving us a glamorous portrait of life in theatre, it presents 19th Century theatre as it actually was: dominated by noisy audiences perfectly capable of riot, the actors usually poor and hungry and mixing freely with criminal elements, the desperate struggle to rise above the chaos to create something magical on stage. And while the film is not sexually explicit by any stretch of the imagination, by 1940s standards CHILDREN OF PARADISE was amazingly frank in its portrayal of Garance's often casual liaisons; American cinema would not achieve anything similar for another twenty years.

Everything about the film seems to swirl in a riot of people, costumes, and overlapping relationships, a sort of mad confusion of life lived in a very elemental manner. And the cast carries the director's vision to perfection. Jean-Louis Barrault is both a brilliant actor and brilliant mime, perfectly capturing the strange innocence his role requires; the famous Arletty offers a divine mixture of exhaustion, sensuality, and self-awareness that makes Garance and her fatal attraction uniquely believable. And these performances do not stand in isolation: there is not a false note in the entire cast, the roles of which cover virtually every level of society imaginable.

With its complex story, vivid performances, and stunning set pieces, the film has a longer running time than one might expect, and some may feel it is slow; I myself, however, did not read it as slow so much as precise. It takes the time to allow the characters and their various stories to develop fully in the viewer's mind. I must also note that while a knowledge of theatre history isn't required to fall under the spell of this truly fascinating film, those who do have that background will find it particularly appealing. CHILDREN OF PARADISE is one of the few films that can be viewed repeatedly, one of the truly great masterpieces of cinema. Strongly, strongly recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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The Paramount Best Movie Ever Produced as a 'Gesamtkunstwerk'
scharnbergmax-se19 February 2004
1995 was the centennial of the invention of movies. In Stockholm the event was celebrated, inter alia, by showing 'Les enfants du paradis' free of charge on the French National Day. It was presented as the best French movie ever made. Perhaps it was felt not to be polite toward other countries to talk of the best movie made in any countries. But many (not all) experts agree that it is indeed so. And so do I. I saw the film for the first time in 1954, and have never changed my mind about its paramount position. But whatever you may think in this respect, one of the most prominent features is that the movie is a 'GESAMTKUNSTWERK'. This word was invented by Richard Wagner to indicate a work in which music, text, and visual arts fuse or amalgamate into a unity. Concerning the movie at hand, the word is of course taken in a different sense. The movie contains all kinds of cinematic categories: mass scenes perhaps with 10'000 extras, chamber play with close-up photos of emotional faces, deep and genuine love, superficial sex, friendship, comic pantomime, tragic pantomime, comic theatre (that is, both the theatre scene and the public on the screen), tragic theatre, murder, hand-to-hand-fighting, pocket-picking, etc. And everything put together into one single film. Even more, whenever a section is comic, it rests so completely in the comic mood that the spectator cannot imagine that the entire movie was not comic from the first beginning, and will not remain so to the last end. Whenever it is tragic, it rests equally completely in the tragic mood, as if it had never been anything else than tragic and would never leave the tragic mood. Despite this heterogeneity, the movie does not split up in disparate fragments, but forms a genuine whole. The writer was the really great poet Jacques Prévert, and it tells much about his unusual competence that, on the one hand, each scene is superb when seen in isolation and, on the other hand, each scene does not therefore fit less perfectly in the film as a whole. - - - To some people it may be interesting to know that four of the roles are real historical persons: the actor Frederick Lemaître, the pantomimic performer Baptiste Debureau, the mediocre gangster Jean-François Lacenaire, and the latter's assistant Avril. Lacenaire was executed in 1836. His memoirs, which were written while he awaited execution, are published in English translation.
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The film is Life itself.
steve-22996 November 2005
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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love story of sublime brilliance and complexity
geroldf1 February 2002
*Enfants* is a work of genius. I won't say it's the greatest film of all time, because its scope is very narrow: the mystery of the heart, the wayward course of love, the bittersweet joy and sorrow of lovers. Maybe that isn't so narrow after all, but it doesn't cover quite as wide a spectrum as other great films (seven samurai, casablanca, mahabharata, key largo etc). Nonetheless, this film belongs in that same company, for an unsurpassed portrayal of loves lost and won, and also the passion of art, a form of love expressing itself in public creativity, enriching the lives of many. Love between lovers enriches them alone; art enriches the world.

The woman Garance is loved by 4 men in this film. Two of them, at least, are superb renditions of genius-in-creation: the mime Baptiste, and the actor Frederick. Both are geniuses, but while Baptiste is silent, weak, and sad, Frederick is loud, powerful, irrepressively optimistic, courageous and generous. He is one of the greatest characters ever to grace the screen. He has one flaw: his genius is so pure, he has a blind spot regarding the weaknesses of others. He cannot conceive of an emotion such as jealousy, and so can never play Iago - until Garance, the fallen woman, finally teaches him.

The other character who may be a genius is Lacenaire, but he is a criminal genius. Evil, twisted, burning with hatred, he has only one true and honest anchor in society - his love for Garance. It doesn't save him, but it keeps him from being as bad as he could be.

Without going into the whole plot (it's long and convoluted) the primary paradox relates to intersecting and disconnected paths of love between the characters. Garance is loved by 4 men, but she really only loves Baptiste. So does Nathalie, a sweet and simple girl, who has the courage to do what Baptiste can not: she declares her love, and so they marry and have a child. Baptiste lacks the strength to take Garance when he has the chance, and so no one is happy - except maybe Frederick, he lives as life should be lived, and even the pain of losing Garance turns to gold in the alchemy of his art.

But despite the pain, and the unhappiness, loss and death, the world of *enfants* is beautiful. It's a world where love and art mean more than success or failure, a world where money is irrelevant and the passion for life burns away the curtain between fantasy and reality. It's three hours of *paradis*!

10/10, with a bullet through the heart.
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you will be left with so much you never knew before, that you always thought existed
jim-57414 August 2000
Film Review by Jim Richardson

First published in "Der Stump" 7/16/75


The greatest film ever made is director Marcel Carne's "Children of Paradise" with script by Jacques Prevert. It's hard to say more.

In Paris of the 1840's on Le Boulevard du Crime, Carne's camera soars through sideshow entertainments of every description. The motion picture has just begun. No characters introduced. Already the audience is gasping, dizzy, lost in a swirl of romantic imagery. We are inside a theatre sharing the cheapest seats in the last row of the top balcony near the ceiling with the "children of paradise." We forget ourselves and any notion that a film has to be "realistic" as we float along catching Carne's glimpse of this lost, fantastic era. The movie moves. It overflows with art and intelligence; we are totally under its spell of romance and beauty.

As the story unfolds, we watch it in a daze. There is suffering and sudden death. But no leaden hand is telling us this is a stylized allegory dealing with the paralysis of an occupied France. This is the kind of film people make when they may die tomorrow: we are compelled to receive it on the edge of our seat, every nerve tingling with desperate anticipation. We don't need to know that it was made between 1943-45 when some of the filmmakers were being hunted by the Gestapo, that starving extras stole banquets before they could be photographed.

Every movement the performers make is studied, made perfect as though this would be the last time any of them were to act. Garbo interests you? Meet Arletty. The ideal twentieth century woman. Witty. Controlled. Passionate. When she comes to her lover she glides toward the camera, walking without the use of her feet. Impossible? Not this time.

Jean-Louis Barrault playing Baptiste Debureau, the greatest French mime who created Pierrot (a pale, love-sick, ever-hopeful seeker after happiness) -- Barrault transcends the man's legend with elegant pathos. And the way he moves. Like a feather. How did he learn that?

The man who taught him plays his father in the film. As a matter of fact, Etienne Decroux taught Marcel Marceau as well. What does Decroux think of Marceau's popular mime? Snarls, "Walt Disney!"

Mime is serious to Decroux. At some of his performances if the audience interrupts with applause, he is insulted and immediately retires from the stage!

In the film, we see Barrault do many of Decroux's mime exercises during moments of Debureau's performances. Does Decroux think this is a good film? It is said that when he views it, tears run down his cheeks as he mouths all the lines.

But the film is not just about mime. Pierre Brasseur plays the most renowned romantic actor in France, Frederick LeMaitre. Decroux doesn't want him in his mime company at first because it's so obvious that "he's an actor." Frederick gets his break when he mocks a playwright by turning the man's melodrama into a farce. Years pass and both actor and mime become successful. But the actor cannot play "Othello" because he is so vain nothing can make him feel jealousy. That's right: Arletty cures him!

And there are aristocrats, and murderers, and thieves. And the film is over three hours long without a break. And you will be surprised how fast those three hours disappear!

You will be overcome with a feeling of ecstasy; you will sign, you will cry. And as your breath is taken away you will be left with so much you never knew before, that you always thought existed; something will have happened to you for the first time, and forever. Now is the time to fall in love with the best there is!
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A gigantic love saga
miguel_marques15 December 2000
Les enfants du paradis is the masterpiece of the duet Carré-Prévert. Although I did not enjoy it as much as Renoir' s work, it must be said of course that it is one of the biggest and most ambitious and most elaborate films ever made in France. Technically I was amazed by the huge sets of the beginning representing the city of Paris in the XIX century (le boulevard du Temple) and set in Nice, and the camera movements within the crowd. We have indeed to take into account the awful conditions in which the film was shot: under occupied France and in co-production with an Italian company that retired when Sicily was occupied, in the mid-shooting. (Colin Crisp) Les enfants du paradise is for me a magnificent, huge story; it is for the cinema what Balzac and Victor Hugo were for literature in the XIX century; not only French, but the world's. A colossal masterpiece with a desperately long, elaborate plot and well-defined powerful characters that confront each other trying to find out in their intercourse the answer to metaphysical questions about love and life between fantasy and reality, just as Armes suggests. Les enfants du paradis boasts an entire collection of characters that make up a twisted action as a result of the confrontation of their personal characteristics. Baptiste Deburau, a real-life mime of the XIX century is the main character. As pointed out in class, many Freudian interpretations have been made about this character: he is weak, he is unable to reach his desires (Garance), he does not want to accept the love he already has (the girl who desperately loves him), he is not a hero, but the very opposite: someone who deserves the pity of the spectator; but also that of Garance and that of his public: when he acts as a mime, the character (as usual) is always chased by fatality and sadness. He even wanted to commit sucide! Garance is a simple woman, as she says in the film. She is ambiguous. Some (the Cinemania magazine in Spain, for example) see her as a prostitute (remember the place where she used to work, her flair, or the strange character she was with and who accused her of stealing his watch -a client, a pimp?). Whatever she may be, she is a lonely woman looking for a lonely love. The four main characters of the film are in love with her, but in a different way each. Each one takes her in the way they want her to be -we see her in the arms of Lemaitre or the Count as though she was two different persons-, except for Baptiste, who at the end of the film will realize and chase his true love -although we do not know what happens at the end. Lemaitre is the man, the Don Juan, the witty, attractive and winning beloved artist. He is proud of himself and his public is proud of him. He provides some talented moments of witty puns or funny, twisted scenes -like the one in the theatre. But there are two things that he cannot obtain: absolute art, in his own opinion only Baptiste has the genius; and absolute love, Garance, who she will love but only one night. However, he can manage it all, he is a scrounger and he will still enjoy his life as it comes. Lacenaire is an ominous, dark mixture of Lemaitre and Baptiste. He is proud as Lemaitre but triumph has cheated him -he is completely awkward as a writer. And he is resentful and sad as Baptiste. These two lead him into violence against his love, Garance and against the Count -I really enjoyed the scene of the murder: the close-up and the grimace of Avril- which can also. The murder can also be taken as a rebellion of the resentful lower classes against the upper classes: the image of the fallen, dead hand with the valuable ring is significant. The count is a symbol for the upper classes: childish (his hairstyle, his expression are those of a young boy), whimsical, materialist, stuck-up, posh, he thinks he can achieve the love of Garance thanks to his influences (he saves her from the police) and wealth (notice the rich veil Garance wears at the beginning of L'homme blanc. But he will lose everything by hands of Lacenaire. Finally, I liked the character of the girl who is in love with Baptiste. She really reminds me of Éponine form Les Misérables by Hugo, the unrequited young girl in love with Marius, the main character. She wanders alone through the film, seeking the love of Baptiste, without success. And she plays the lead in one of the most bitter scenes in the film, about which we will talk later.

The main topics in the film are love on one side and life between fantasy and reality on the other. Love is always present in various forms. A passionate love by Lemaitre, a platonic love by Baptiste, an unrequited love by the girl who loves him, a love bought with money, by the Count, a violent love, by Lacenaire. But Carné and Prévert really want to show that only a true, pure and simple love will prevail. That is the love Garance seeks and that only Baptiste will be able to give her at some point. 'Love is so simple' is one of the climax phrases, containing the key of love in the movie will first pronounced by Garance and later by Baptiste. However, there are some other bitter moments on the dark side of love: at the end of the film, when Garance flees and Baptiste chases her, his wife will stand alone, in the middle of the room, still. The camera will stay with her, and we can see her reaction, that of a little child so suddenly and badly struck by betrayal. 'What about me?' So simple words that however struck me. There is in the movie a constant game between life and theatre. This has a lead role throughout both parts of the movie. We can see gorgeous and funny sketches by Baptiste (right at the beginning, when he meets Garance, and later on his performances), and burlesque or sublime representations by Lemaitre. And in general a whole bunch of characters form the theater life will show off in the movie, and theater life itself can be seen in a close-up: the owner of the theater des Funambuls, the three authors (victims of a bitter criticism and humor), the side characters. However, the climax of this close relationship between theater and life arrives in the scene where Lemaitre, who knows he can do whatever he wants on a stage, as he is a superstar, strays from the script and begins fooling around. He goes out to the stalls and then action bends over itself, and does not depend on the authors any longer: the double game actor-spectator, fiction-reality reflexes itself in a witty dance. And Lemaitre leads us in the confusion, what is real and what is not?. And that confusion is so funny for the public; and is also illicit, but Lemaitre is allowed to do anything within a theater. There is another moment where the characters of life (Garance, Lameitre and co.) long for being public again. At the beginning of the second part, Garance tells Lemaitre about the 'children of paradise', that is 'les enfants du paradis'. They are so poor, so happy, so irresponsible, up there in the cheapest seats! Just like children, as the title of the movie says. And Garance misses that, she misses that time of her life when she did not have anything to do with the Count or with the rich veil that covers her face. And the drawing from the cover of the film is meaningful too: the children of paradise sitting and watching the rest of characters, as if they were real characters in a play. And all the characters are just watching the center around which all action spins: their either beloved or hated Garance.
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The greatest movie to ever grace the silver screen.
movieguynathan23 February 2003
"Les Enfants du Paradis" is my favorite movie of all time, and if you don't agree with me, you must admit it's surely one of the most beautiful. The film is about one woman, Garance (Arletty), who is loved by many men in early Paris. It is definitely Marcel Carne's crowning achievement, and to think this movie was even made is a miracle. Sadly, this movie is unseen by many, and isn't even on IMDb's Top 250 list. It's really too bad that such a stunning film would be so underrated. Please take my word, overlook the running time, and check out "Children of Paradise." (****/****)
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Paradise Found
Spondonman9 December 2007
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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The Wheel of Fortune
Geofbob18 March 2001
Warning: Spoilers
People sometimes wonder how this great movie could be made in occupied France in the midst of WWII. But perhaps this was a most appropriate time for it to be created, and added to its conception and execution. Because the fortunes of war are a reflection of the fortunes of life, which above all this film explores. All the cliches so familiar in everyday life - what goes up comes down; the fickleness of love; beauty in the midst of ugliness; the lonely sad sensitive soul; the unthinking happy-go-lucky mob; generosity; avariciousness - are here portrayed in breathtaking poetry of words, settings, camera angles, music that has never been equalled. The huge camera movements over and through the crowd at the start and end of the film make an indelible impression.

And the performances! Barrault and Arletty create characters who are uniquely individual and yet represent ideals of physical and spiritual beauty. Of the other memorable performances, Pierre Renoir as Jericho, the rag and bone collector, is someone who once seen will never be forgotten.

As in life, there is no easy happy ending. Having emerged from the crowd, Garance once more melts into it. But there is every chance that the wheel of fortune will turn again; Baptiste will find Garance; Nathalie will find new love; the show will go on!
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A timeless masterpiece
fabio-2423 September 2002
It is an epic. One of the best films ever made. The script and the dialogues show that the genius of Jacques Prévert wasn't made only for written poetry but for poetry in motion as well.Carné's camera is precise and makes one feel like a real witness of the plot. All in all a lesson of how to make a film yesterday, today and tomorrow.
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Theatre, life, love: contrasts and symmetries
Teyss20 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Considered as one of the best French films ever and as a worldwide masterpiece, "Children of Paradise" is a milestone: first French movie released after the liberation of Paris in 1945, it is pivotal between pre- and post-WWII cinema. On the one hand, it pays tribute to silent pictures (there are more than 20 minutes of pantomime) and represents the culmination of 1930s "Poetic Realism": poetic dialogues, archetypal characters, enhanced drama (it just lacks social background). On the other hand, it announces post-WWII modernism: strong thematic structure, mix of styles, reduced action.

The movie is a homage to theatre and pantomime. If the overall connecting thread is the love story between Garance and Baptiste, the main theme is the contrast between theatre and "real" life: to what extent do shows imitate life... or conversely? This thematic axis is reinforced by symmetries between other elements, associated by pairs.


The movie is divided into two Parts of approximately equal lengths. It opens and closes with a shot on the same street, yet with contrasting moods: joyful at the beginning, sombre at the end.

On the one hand, the style is scenic: acting, dialogues, settings, lighting, music. Notably, all major actors had an important theatrical career beforehand. It seems the action could take place anywhere, anytime since no outside event is evoked, even though in 1830 (around which date the action takes place) a major revolution occurred. We always are on the main street, or inside or near buildings, as in a play (only short exception: the duel between Frederick and the playwright in the countryside).

On the other hand, it is a realistic movie. Baptiste, Frederick and Lacenaire are based on actual 19th century celebrities; even the names are accurate. Montray and Garance are inspired by existing persons. The shows are authentic, although altered. Personalities are complex. For instance, Lacenaire is at the same time a murderer and a poet, without scruples but not without values: after planning to kill Frederick out of jealousy, he becomes found of him because he was generous; hence he murders Montray (and quietly awaits his own execution) to prevent the latter killing Frederick in duel.


Characters are opposed by their belonging to the theatrical world or not. Of the two main female roles, Nathalie is an actress while Garance is not (she only plays shortly in Part 1). This contrast is reinforced by their opposite personalities, as well as Garance's changing mood: in Part 1, she is always smiling as she points out herself, but in Part 2 she is sombre, until the very end when she leaves in the carriage. To illustrate this duality, she is first shown looking in a mirror and afterwards frequently uses this device.

The four main male roles are divided into two groups: actors and others. In each of these, antagonisms are accentuated: pantomime (Baptiste) versus spoken theatre (Frederick); crime (Lacenaire) versus aristocracy (Montray). To enhance contrasts further, each of these men love Garance in a different way: idealised (Baptiste), physical (Frederick), intellectual (Lacenaire, character with homosexual innuendos), venal (Montray)... even though all are jealous of the other ones.


Many events are duplicated: once in a theatrical mode, once in real mode, and frequently once in each of the two Parts. Just a few examples:
  • Baptiste loses Garance to Frederick; the same happens in a staged pantomime.
  • The show "Chand d'Habits"... is directly inspired by Jericho, for which he blames Baptiste's father.
  • Frederick reads "Othello" in his bedroom... then plays it on stage.
  • Frederick rehearses a cheap play... then massacres it live, both scenes mixing theatre and reality.
  • Montray offers Garance a huge bouquet in her dressing room; Frederick, while on stage, offers the same in her theatre box.
  • Montray plays with a stage prop chicken and throws it; Frederick eats a real chicken and throws the bones.
  • Some dialogues are repeated on and off stage.


However oppositions are only apparent. In the end, everything blends together: theatre and reality, characters, comedy and tragedy. Revealingly, the two main female characters never meet, except at the very end of each Part. At the end of Part 1, it is in a light mode while at the end of Part 2 it triggers a drama: Baptiste leaves Nathalie for Garance, who goes away.

Similarly, the main male characters are never seen together, they only meet by pairs, except at the end when all four are climatically gathered after the representation of "Othello". It causes a crisis: Lacenaire shows that Garance cheats on Montray and Frederick with Baptiste. Remarkably, this revelation is made through a spectacular mix of theatre and cinema: Lacenaire opens a curtain on Garance and Baptiste kissing (theatre), while the camera dramatically pans to the left (cinema).

This triggers a tragedy: Montray challenges Frederick to a duel, who is willing to die as he realises Garance loves Baptiste; Lacenaire will murder Montray and be executed. All this happens after "Othello", a play about jealousy naturally, but ironically where the main female character (Desdemona) dies: in real life, Garance survives after Montray & Lacenaire die and Baptiste & Frederick are left shattered. Ironically also, these tragic events occur while a frenetic carnival invades the streets. It overflows with white, a characteristic colour that Baptiste, now lost in the crowd, always wears on stage: the above-mentioned blend is also visual.

Even dialogues brilliantly mix theatre and everyday life. Jacques Prévert was an eminent poet and specifically created the lines for the actors he had already selected. This is why dialogues, like in all the movies he participated to, sound so just: as a tailored suit, they perfectly fit the actor's diction and style, which can be quite peculiar like Arletty's. As a result, they feel at the same time poetic and simple, theatrical and real, witty and natural. Many quotes are now part of history.
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love vs infatuation times five
slangist8 September 2003
it takes a real poet to write dialog this incisive, not that i speak french, but the new subtitles are very clear (visually) and concise (linguistically)... the poet was jacques prevert, the director marcel carne, and if you want to know how powerful real moviemaking can be, you have to see this picture... as in all true tragedy, the various pairs of lovers comment by their actions on each other's destinies... baptiste/garance are the main pair we care most about, but all the others contribute to and contrast with their true, genuine, doomed affair... the shadows of the main pair are baptiste/nathalie, and garance/frederick, descending to the sick depths of garance/edouard, lacenaire/avril, and jericho/himself. it's like a deck of cards with all possible combinations revealed. based on a true story, set against the theatre milieu of the 1840s, this has the world's best crowd scenes, partially because carne employed every actor in france who needed saving from the nazis, including hiding jews on the set (it was made during WWII). the use of mime advances the plot and is not simply an excuse for baptiste to show off his real-life talents (jean-louis barrault conducts a school of mime in france to this day.) the stunningly vibrant arletty plays garance, a whore with a heart, as if such a thing had never happened before... and until she did it her way, it hadn't...
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Children of the Gods
Felix-2824 March 2002
In England, and for all I know in America as well, the cheapest seats in a theatre were right at the top, in the Upper Circle, and to sit there was known as sitting "with the gods", presumably because you were so close to heaven. In France, the same part of the theatre is known as "Paradis", presumably for the same reason.

So a better English translation of the title of this film would be "Children of the Gods". This translation reflects the double meaning of the French title, which conveys that we are seeing the children of heaven acting out for us their lives as if they were a play.

It is difficult to pinpoint what gives this film its greatness, but I think that there is a clue in its title. It is a film that shows, in simple form, as in a simple play, some of the truths of life. Garance is the Eternal Woman: beautiful, sensual, inconstant. Baptiste is the artist destined for unhappiness: he loves Garance, but cannot accept her when she offers herself, as she refuses his demand for her to forsake all others. Natalie is unrequited love: the man she loves does not love her in return. Lacenaire is the embodiment of evil; Edouard is the corrupt aristocrat. Frederic is the common man: he takes the best of what the world offers and asks little in return except to be allowed to enjoy it to the full.

The actors have little control over their parts. Even Baptiste, who devises his own mimes, produces the same story again and again,one that reflects his own life. The actors play out their parts before the audience every night, and the audience laughs or cries according to the run of the play.
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Ah, Baptiste...
gcameron25 August 2000
The mime sequences are my favorites, particularly the scene in the second half ("L'homme Blanc") when Pierrot, played by Baptiste, is trying to get into the ballroom. The gaslight, the silhouetted dummies that, seen through the window, swirl about in their dance... something about this scene captures the atmosphere of the 19th century for me. This is the Paris of Chopin, Hugo, Ingres. "Les Enfants du Paradis" brings it to life.

I find the conclusion rather abrupt. Lacenaire is forced, for the sake of the plot, into an action that doesn't seem in character for him. Frederick LeMaitre -- the most winning, purely charismatic character in the movie -- drops out in the final scenes, and his arc feels unresolved. I am not sure if the 6 main characters' stories are tied together into any meaningful conclusion or revelation. Perhaps they aren't intended to be.

Still, there is much to admire in "Les Enfants du Paradis." It is a triumph of atmosphere, of evocation of setting; and it contains two immortal performances, in the characters of Baptiste and LeMaitre. Those whose decry it as a warmed-over "Film d'Art," a pusillanimous, cobwebby production rightly swept away by the New Wave, miss the point: it exists outside its time and place in film history, and evokes a deeply romantic sensibility with great charm, and also intelligence.
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Love in all its varieties fails
alicecbr20 February 2004
Other than homosexual marriage, we have a taste of everything here: unrequited love, murder, jealousy and truth spoken. It is difficult toget angry at any of the lovers, since they speak so truthfully to one another.

The murderer himself is to be admired, since he can't admit to himself his love for Garance but winds up removing the wicked rich 'owner' of Garance. How was this allowed to be made under the Nazi occupation? I can only guess that the connections between freedom and despotism that are easily made by today's viewer would be more difficult then. Obviously, it is everyone's love for the theater, both mime, actor and writer, that is honored here. (The murderer prided himself on his writing skill.)

The screenplay is excellent, dialogue inspired, and there is little of the duplicity you usually see today in such movies. Garance, unable to love due to her own background as sex object, speaks tenderly to all and refuses to lie. With one exception: she agrees to speak to all of Paris of her love for the count, so long as HE knows she does not love him.

Thought done skillfully, it is an old story of "he loves her, she doesn't love him, she loves another, he doesn't love her back but only toys with her". If ever I saw a great example of why you must play "Hard to get" when playing the game of love, it's this one. Take your teen age children to see this, and point out how the non-availability of Garance and Baptiste, as well, whet the appetites of the others. watching my grandson's affection toyed with by a young girl just playing with love-- when he was smitten and straight with his feelings broke my heart, and I tried to explain to him what the game is at the age of 15. This movie pretty well exemplifies the situation.

The interweaving of 'Othello' with the lovers' stories, the murder of the old clothes man on the stage with the real old-clothes man complaining about his protrayal, are illustrations of life imitating art and vice-versa. The acting is magnificent....the crowd scenes superbly done for 1945. What a great film!!!!
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Creates a Vivid, Memorable World Full of Life
Snow Leopard18 February 2005
This classic features a fine set of performances from the cast, and it tells an interesting and often absorbing story, yet it does even more than that. It succeeds in creating its own world, and in allowing the viewer to live in it for a while. The characters become like old acquaintances, some friendly, some funny, some hateful, but all of them interesting.

In no time at all, you are drawn into the world of the street and the theater, and all of the characters are introduced in such a way that you immediately know a great deal about them. The six main characters (Garance and her four admirers, plus Nathalie) are admirably conceived, and they also form a nicely varied set of personalities. Their loves, their schemes, and their lives become vivid and memorable, and it's almost as if you were a part of their circle. Arletty and the rest of the cast are all quite good, and many of the minor characters also become interesting and effective parts of the story.

Not only are the settings nicely detailed and well-matched with the story, but the story itself avoids the conventional expectations of romances or similar stories, to show things in a believable and thoughtful way. While wholly sympathetic to almost all of the characters, neither does it do them any special favors just to conform with Hollywoodish conventions. They are thus not only believable, but easy to identify with.

The story-line also has one feature that works out extremely well, in that it allows a gap of several years in the middle of the plot. It makes the characters that much more interesting when they re-appear, some changed and some exactly the same, and it sparks new interest in the old situations when they re-arise.

Beyond all that, there are many worthwhile themes to consider. The Othello theme offers good, if obvious, parallels to the story, and all of the tangled relationships say a lot of things about human nature and its limitations. Knowing that the film was made during the occupation of France also adds some interesting angles. There's more than could ever be discussed in a short review, and "Children of Paradise" is certainly one of the fine classics that every cinema-lover should see.
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The best French movie of all time.
dbdumonteil26 June 2005
This is not legend .This is fact.And anybody who would not have seen it could not claim to know the French cinema,had he even seen the whole Godard filmography.

Those were the occupation years."Les visiteurs du soir" which preceded "children of paradise" took place in the MIddle Ages ,it was an alibi .Ditto for "children" .Carné and Prévert chose the nineteenth century,and their screenplay drew its inspiration from Balzac,Hugo and Eugène Sue.They created characters (Garance,Jericho and the count Montray) and they introduced real life ones :Baptiste Debureau belongs to the legend,but he did exist ,he is often mentioned even in contemporary songs such as Charles Aznavour' s "les comedians" .He invented the Pierrot character,as dear to the French collective memory as Charlie Chaplin .Lacenaire was also a notorious criminal who died on a guillotine:recently,in the early sixties,he was devoted a whole movie,questionable though (see "Lacenaire " by Francis Girod);his partner in crime ,Avril,also appears (Fabien Loris's part).Frederic Lemaitre was a comedian who created "l'auberge des adrets" -a melodrama he turns into a farce in the movie- and other melodramas.

Prevert was at his best and most of his lines are memorable.Arletty /Garance epitomized his spirit,she WAS "je suis comme je suis" flesh on the bone.Since word plays and poetry abound,I urge non -French people to see the movie in French with subtitles.Anyway who could dub the unique Arletty?Her voice is inimitable.

Admirable sequences: the "boulevard du crime" with its crowds ,its attractions ; the sensational mime show by Jean-Louis Barrault;the perfectly captured atmosphere of the theater;Garance in the count's luxury apartment;the carnival which remains today maybe the finest final of any French movie.

Mixing real life and fiction (mime,drama) ,Marcel Carné predates Truffaut's much inferior "day for night" by thirty years ,which subject had already been treated by André Cayatte ("les amants de Verone" ,with another Prevert script).The sequences seem to follow naturally,we do not feel any gap between what is lived and what is acted .

Alexandre Trauner's -who clandestinely worked - film sets were all the more impressive as they were made at a time where the disposable funds were not that much high .

Arletty could not attend the premiere for she was in jail.Like Clouzot and so many others ,she was unfairly blacklisted for the wrong reasons (she had loved a German -whom she knew before the war;she had always said she did not want to have a child because he would become a soldier).Her career was partly broken and she never had the parts she deserved afterward.

Marcel Carné was ,along with Jean Renoir and Julien Duvivier,the best director of those somber years,that is to say one of the three best directors of the French cinema.
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the street crowd scenes had served their unexpected purpose
Elizabeth Nolan18 May 2001
Just a gift.

I would like to share 2 comments about this film. 1) Les Enfants du Paradis was described as a good movie to see if you have a few hours to kill. I immediately suggested "a good movie to see if you have a few hours to LIVE!"

2) Several reviewers comment about the length of the movie. During the few minutes break between reels, a fellow viewer commented about the length. Although this was during my first viewing (without any reading about Les Enfants du Paradis -- the way I like to see movies), I suggested that the totality of the movie would seem to need all the scenes in order to come together....although I didn't know the how of that. The viewer said he could do without all those street crowd scenes. Undoubtedly, Baptiste's battling the crowd to reach his beloved is sheer perfection that could be achieved only with the setup of the repeated crowds. When I saw the viewer at the end of the movie, he agreed that the street crowd scenes had served their unexpected purpose.
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"Jealousy belongs to all if a woman belongs to none."
elvircorhodzic16 July 2016
Marcel Carne definitely a lot of philosophizing, But the philosophy of life in the poetic realism of the "fatalistic" description of characters is inevitable. CHILDREN OF PARADISE is a very ambitious movie about the life masquerade. The world of theater is full of mysterious truths, secrets, intrigue and illusion.

The story of the passions in the Parisian theaters. Theaters are alive no matter what. The protagonists are fatherless and poor, in other words they are ideal. To favor the beautiful courtesan fight four men. Each in their own way. Mime, actor, villain or aristocrats. The lady was long ago chose only what any of them do not know.

Philosophy drama is never completely clear. Wandering through the net, woven of love, hate and jealousy is hard to unravel. Dialogues are elegant and poetic. The reasons are futile. Destiny is already predetermined.

Jean-Louis Barrault as Baptiste Deburau is magical and unreal in its scenes of pantomime. The character who is more fascinated by a woman, but life in general. This is the main reason for his beloved courtesan will not become part of it. Arletty as Claire "Garance" Reine in the role of an intriguing woman who skillfully hiding their own secrets, because life does not give her enough freedom so that its secrets become reality. Pierre Brasseur as Frédérick Lemaître is extravagant, conceited and selfish actor. The initiator of its environmental role sadness.

This film was made between silence and speech. Where one stops the other starts. Scenery and the atmosphere in the false silence are magical. However, sometimes one must speak out. Words are vulnerable but strong. I think this movie should everyone look.
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The Mime, The Actor, The Criminal, the Aristocrat, and Their Love
Galina_movie_fan17 March 2005
The Children of Paradise is set in pre 1840 Paris, on Boulevard of Crime and is a richly entertaining and intensely romantic evocation of an epoch. It is the story of infatuation, jealousy, deception, grief, murder, and true love lost forever. The film tells of an unattainable beautiful courtesan named Garance (unforgettably played by Arletty who was over 40 and seemed not to care at all if she looked her age) and four men who love her - the famous mime Baptist (Jean-Louis Barrault is matchless), the actor, Frederick LeMaitre, the criminal Pierre-François Lacenaire, and the aristocrat Comte de Montray. She loved one of them and the affair was doomed. The film is so much more than just a romantic story (which is absolutely beautiful and compelling) - it is a love song to the Art of Theater where art imitates life and vice-versa and the hidden symbolism of freedom and despotism (the film was made in Paris during the Nazi Occupation under immensely difficult circumstances).

Jacques Prevert wrote the brilliant and ironic scenario and dialog; Marcel Carne superbly directed the film. It is a 190 minutes long film but I cherished every minute of it.
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A Perfect and Enchanting Masterwork
connorbonelli8 January 2020
It seriously is one of the greatest films I've ever seen and is easily the best French film ever. Not only that but it is a film so great that it should be regarded higher than "Citizen Kane" or "The Godfather" But it breaks my heart that it isn't as well known as it should be. Even from a technical standpoint alone It is amazing that it exists. I mean, it was SHOT IN FRANCE DURING WWII. It has some of the most sympathetic characters ive ever seen (mainly Baptiste). Beautiful imagery and themes. If you haven't seen it or even heard of it I URGE YOU TO WATCH IT. It is truly a masterpiece.
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a little disappointed in "the best film ever"
SnoopyStyle4 December 2014
It's the 1820s in the theater district of Paris or the Boulevard du Crime. Claire 'Garance' Reine (Arletty) is an aluring woman in the show. Four men all fall for her. Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) is a mime. Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur) is a serious actor. Pierre François Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand) is a thief. Count Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou) is an aristocrat. Garance is accused of stealing a watch from a man which was taken by Lacenaire and witness Baptiste saves her. Nathalie, who is also a mime, loves Baptiste.

When I read the accolades that this is "the greatest French film of all time", my expectations were heightened. Maybe there are things lost in the translation. It's basically a romance melodrama. I know that this was made during the Nazi occupation. I can certainly see the emotional connection that entails especially for the French. I understand perfectly how difficult this must have been to put such a large production on the screen. As a movie, this is merely a well-made melodrama and not much more. I really like the extended scene of the play. It's a good movie but it's a little disappointing.
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A Long Movie About Flirtation and Jealousy.
rmax30482330 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I wish I had something better to say about "Les Enfants du Paradis." I understand it was shot under almost impossible conditions during the Nazi occupation and the cast and crew are held in an esteem almost Olympian in height.

Helas, it seemed to drag for me. Three hours of a mime pursuing a flirtatious woman who attracts all kinds of men, high and low. It's a long time and I had some trouble keeping my eyes open. God knows, I'm not asking for the kind of warp-speed movies we're bombarded with today, nor does everything need to be dumbed down to the level of a grade-school kid. But, really, it could have been snipped here and there and been more of an eyeball magnet than it is. There's a good ten minutes, for instance, of a mime's performance on the stage of a kind of Commedia del'Arte. He prances in silence with a child, a blustering policeman, and a coquettish laundry woman. The mime is no Marcel Marceau, and nothing comes of the performance that couldn't be communicated in two minutes. Instead, we watch him for ten.

And I couldn't figure out why all the men fall for Arletty. As Randolph Scott said in one of his Westerns, "She ain't ugly." But she ain't exactly enchanting either.

The film's longueurs stretch on and on, like the Street of Crime, as far as the half-open eye can see. Nothing much happens. A bit of trouble with the police. A duel. The mime beats a huge bouquet of flowers to death. Some suggestive dialog that must have seemed wicked in 1945. Mostly people stand on a stage and play catch with words.

It's said to be the "Gone With the Wind" of French cinema. I've seen enough of "Gone With the Wind" for one lifetime too. However, "Gone With the Wind" has its adoring fans. So does "The Sound of Music," though, and that's bound to induce some sort of digestive problem in a viewer who is not a fan. "Les Enfants" has its fans, including some people whose opinions I respect, so maybe others will get more out of this than I was able to.
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A Perfect Film
kaljic3 June 2019
The story of The Children of Paradise is deceptively simple. It is the story four men vying for the affections of a beautiful actress. Set almost two hundred years ago, it is not the story alone which makes this a great film (The Screenwriter, Jacques Prevert, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay). It is the superlative acting, the utterly believable dialogue, the painstakingly detailed sets, the throng of extras in the street scenes - these and other elements come together to transport you to France in the decade of the 1820s. You will enter that world and not want to return. But even if this movie was an average film - which it definitely is not - the fact that this movie was made at all is a modern miracle. Marcel Carne, the director, and Pathe, the production company, made this film when France was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1943 in the middle of World War II. This movie is one which you should definitely watch before you leave this mortal coil. Highly recommended.
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C'est la vie pas le paradis
jeannefrancoise13 October 2018
Laissez-moi écrire une critique en français. Les enfants du paradis est l'un des films classiques les plus populaires en Indonésie, en particulier pour ceux qui ont suivi des cours de cinéma en français, car Jacues Prevert dirige un rôle de premier plan dans la réalisation de bons acteurs et décrit les idées de récit de manière complexe mais significative. Arletty dans ce film est dépeinte comme une vraie amoureuse prête à blasphémer comme une femme qui n'a pas raison et laisse finalement le luxe pour l'amour de son ancien petit ami. Mais, comme dans tous les films français, des scènes stupides et satiriques rendent le public triste et touché. Comme la philosophie des temps perdus, que tout devienne fou s'il y a de l'amour. Comme le théâtre décrit dans ce film et l'action du personnage principal Frédéric Lemaitre, tout est faux jusqu'à ce que la douleur soit apparente. C'est la vie va le paradis.
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