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10/10
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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10/10
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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9/10
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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10/10
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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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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10/10
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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9/10
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.

STRUCTURE & STYLE

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

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.

EVENTS

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.


THE BIG COMBO

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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8/10
"Gentlemen, I have just savoured a most exquisite moment!"
classicsoncall9 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The movie opens and closes with a most festive carnival atmosphere, with mimes and clowns prancing their wares to an enthusiastic street crowd. Amid the rabble of 1920's Paris, a somewhat aristocratic looking woman becomes the romantic target for four disparate men, some with love in mind, and some with, well, that which goes with the territory. The story takes place over two long chapters titled 'The Boulevard of Crime' and 'The Man in White', and there was a bit of a disconnect for me in that the second part took place 'several years' after the introduction of the principal players. Perhaps that was necessary to establish that one of Claire Reine/the Lady Garance's (Arletty) principal suitors, the mime artist Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) wound up in marriage to Nathalie (María Casares) and was raising a son with her. For whatever reason, Garance never terminated the relationships with her remaining three paramours, who remained in her orbit and often crossed paths with each other while harboring conflicting emotions.

Though the picture managed to maintain my interest, I can't honestly say that this might have been the greatest French film ever, or as some reviewers here state, THE greatest movie of all time. Certainly director Marcel Carné created a lively and vivid period film under harsh wartime conditions while France was occupied by Nazis during World War II. It always strikes me as significant that actors and actresses can compartmentalize their emotions during times of stress to produce their particular form of art. Taking nothing away from devotees of the picture, I thought it was generally a good film but far from the 'greatest' label.

With that said, I thought each of the principals did a competent job with their portrayals, particularly Jean-Louis Barrault during his mime sequences. I was somewhat puzzled over the choice of actress Arletty as the object of desire for her four would be lovers, as she didn't strike me as stunningly beautiful per se, though there was a classic grace to her personality. Most disconcerting for this viewer was how easily Baptiste managed to cast off concern for his wife when she caught the two of them in a romantic embrace. One wonders exactly what he would do about her if he managed to track down Garance in that vast sea of clowns and revelers as the story came to a close.
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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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6/10
a little disappointed in "the best film ever"
SnoopyStyle4 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
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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10/10
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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10/10
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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10/10
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

GREATEST FILM EVER MADE

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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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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10/10
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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5/10
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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10/10
Marcel Carné's Magical Realism
hasosch13 January 2010
It is a fantastic and poetic world which Marcel Carné has presented to his public in his limited number of movies, almost everyone a masterpiece on its own. A world, in which fantasy and poetry have magical power. There is no gesture, no mimics, no sign without a meaning, a little character can change a world. Insofar, Carné is a late heir of Novalis. According to him, the sign is necessarily bound to its object, there is no arbitrariness and no convention. There is a "sympathetic abyss" between sign and object, and at the beginning of the creation of every sign therefore stands the Great Sign Creator, God. So, every syllable, every twitch and flutter and flicker and bicker and flash is a message from Heaven. No wonder, that in such a world practically everything is possible. And no wonder, that the gigantic fairground which Carné presents in his epochal "Les Enfants Du Paradis" is a world in the world that is protected by the Sublime. I even think that Carné's typical style, which is the style of a merciful and enchanted marionette-player, shows that the sense of life does not consist in enforcing everyone's alleged free will, but to learn how to communicate, to interpret and to act in this highly artistic semiotic world. Nietzsche had written that he supports an anti-metaphysic world-view - as long it is artistic.
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10/10
French film made during the Nazi occupation
blanche-227 December 2009
"L'enfants du paradis" is a remarkable film made in Nazi-occupied France, actually done in pieces over several years. Even if it had not been made under such difficult circumstances, it will still stand as a magnificent masterpiece. With a script by the poet Jacques Prevert and direction by Marcel Carne, it stars Arletty and Jean-Louis Barrault as its main characters, Garance and Baptiste Dubureau.

The story takes place on the Boulevard de Crime in 1840s France, a street teeming with people and theater of all kinds. A mime, Baptiste (Barrault) becomes obsessed with a street woman, Garance (Arletty), a mysterious creature who becomes the artistic muse of two men, Baptiste and Frederick LeMaitre (Pierre Brasseur). Shyness keeps Baptiste from becoming Garance's lover, and he loses her to LeMaitre and others. Meanwhile, Nathalie (Casares) loves Baptiste and isn't afraid to say so. Garance finally realizes that she is as much in love with Baptiste as he is with her, but now they are both ensconced in other lives. What will they do? "Les enfants du paradis" is a dark film, going from intimate two-person scenes to massive crowd scenes on the boulevard, taking us into the dark alleys of Paris and the after-hours crowd in bars to the theater rabble-rousers, and demonstrating the power of mime in performance. This is a world of hungry actors, crooks, hustlers, casual sex, and great art.

Only in France would a woman in her mid-forties be cast as a femme fatale - imagine Hollywood doing that in 1945. The Garbo-ish Arletty manages to be earthy and mysterious as Garance. The actress was not invited to the premiere of this film due to her fall from grace - she had a German officer as a lover during the war. In fact, she was arrested and spent time in a concentration camp, finally being put under house arrest. She did return triumphantly to film and worked until 1967, when blindness from an accident forced her to retire. She died in 1992 at the age of 94.

The thin, sensitive looking Jean-Louis Barrault gives an exquisite performance as Baptiste, a role based on the real-life mime Jean-Gaspard Deburau, who invented the character of Pierrot. So successful was Barrault's pantomime work that it revived interest in the art form in France and made it possible for Marcel Marceau to become hugely popular. Barrault's performance is still studied in mime schools today. A passionate man, Barrault actually hid members of the resistance on the set of "Les enfants du paradis." This film is long, it's talky, but it is fascinating and detailed in every aspect. A no-miss for both film and theater lovers.
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10/10
The Children of Paradise: The Revival Screening.
morrison-dylan-fan30 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Not living in a major city,the opportunities to watch classic films on the big screen become limited,with it being possible for a few years to go by without one getting shown. Aware of the "Cinema Time Machine" screenings held at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, (the oldest cinema in the UK) I have sadly missed out on all the showings, due to not wanting to miss the last train home. A fan of auteur Marcel Carne,I was taken aback when looking at the Electric's listings and finding that they were screening Carne's epic (which I've never seen before) at a good time. This led to me finally meeting the children of paradise.

View on the film:

Raising the curtain on the 18th century, auteur director Marcel Carné takes his graceful stylisation of Film Noir's Port of Shadows and Le Jour se Leve to a vast costume Drama canvas. Sending every man to the siren-call like beauty of Claire Reine, Carné & cinematographer Roger Hubert make her stand out like a mirage in each frame,with Carné continuing to expand on his distinctive tracking shots,that run across the bustling streets of Paris, (the largest sets,and most expensive French film ever at the time)and find Reine in the middle of the crowd. Stepping out onto the stage, Carné reveals a surprisingly humorous side,where the mines at the Funambules theatre are played with a delicate touch highlighting the quirks in Baptiste's on-stage performances.

Unveiled across the screen like an epic novel, the screenplay by regular Carné collaborator Jacques Prévert makes the 3 hour run time feel as light as a feather,by Prévert wisely focusing on the personal,rather than spectacle. Introducing Reine to four major lovers in her life, Prévert uses the figures to give the film four distinctive moods,as Baptiste's love twists from flirting Comedy to sweeping romance, Frédérick's jealousy spirals the title with a vengeful edge, Lacenaire's thieving glazing the brittle desire they each have for her and Count de Montray grips Reine with an unrelenting darkness. Made,but not landing until the Occupation was finally over, Prévert's poetic dialogue brilliantly goes behind the scenes of the stage,and radically connects the romantic tale with the allegorical,in each of the men having a possessive love,which surrounds Reine, until she drops each of them and gains (temporarily) liberty.

Shining as the cast member whose become the most entwined in Prévert and Carné's legacy, Arletty gives a mesmerising performance as Reine,whose given a sophistication Arletty that gives her an unshakeable allure. Finding Reine held back from looking at the stage for a number of years, Arletty elegantly conveys the heaviness from the passage of time,with Reine's reunions of former lovers losing the romantic innocence they each shared. Duelling for Reine's affections with Marcel Herrand's devilish charms as Lacenaire,the stern glance Louis Salou injects Montray,and the flamboyance Pierre Brasseur dresses Lemaitre in, Jean-Louis Barrault gives a magnetic performance as Baptiste,whose mime stage shows Barrault plays with incredible ease,and expressively casts desire across Baptiste face,from seeing Reine in the crowd of the children of paradise.
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10/10
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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10/10
Carne Creates A Stunning Study of Love and Society
Tetsel11 November 1998
This film is absolutely stunning in its beauty and grandeur. The script is wonderfully biting, and the philosphical overtones make it that much more interesting. One of the keys to the greatest films are their memorable scenes. Well, one of the most unforgettable scenes I've ever experienced is when Baptiste first speaks to defend Garance, and then mimes the scene for the police. It, like many other scenes, was awe inspiring and thought provoking. The characters were all interesting and sophisticated, and the actors/actresses played them beautifully and naturally. To put it into perspective for those who are thinking of seeing it : imagine if Ingmar Bergman had gotten hold of the script for Gone With the Wind. Simply amazing.
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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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8/10
Lovely, but a tad too long
planktonrules22 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's interesting--all the reviews for this film (except one) were very, very positive. While I did enjoy it very much, I do wonder if perhaps this excellent film is a tad overrated. Several reviewers called it the greatest French film ever made and one reviewer went so far as to say it was the best film ever made. I wonder...did these reviewers see other French films? After all, with so many fantastic films, is this overly long film truly the very best--I don't think so, though I did enjoy it.

First, what I liked: The feel for the 19th century town and all the riffraff and denizens of this community were excellently realized. The film had a great feel and it truly looked like it was a time tunnel through which you could see the people--particularly in the street scenes. Also, much of the time Baptiste was performing (in particular his first scene when the fat man is robbed), I was in awe of his skill--even though I am not a huge fan of mime. Also, I liked the way the film ended--brilliant.

But what did I dislike? For "the best film ever", CHILDREN OF PARADISE seemed way too long and its momentum wasn't sustained throughout the film. In addition, while I liked Baptiste and saw him as a fundamentally decent man, it was inconceivable that he'd sleep with Garance near the end of the film and that he would try to run off with her when he had a beautiful son and loving wife. This just seemed to undo all the decency and sweetness that Baptiste had previously displayed.

Still, artistically speaking, this is one of the best French films I have seen--and as an American, I've actually seen quite a few (several hundred). But as for it being the best, I suggest you see a few other films from this great cinematic nation such as LA FEMME DU BOULANGER, LE CORBEAU, LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG, GRAND ILLUSION, JÁCCUSE and many other films before you crown ENFANTS DU PARADIS the "greatest". Great? Probably. But with so many other wonderful films and this film having a few problems (mentioned above), I just can't elevate this movie to "greatest" status.
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Almost a Miracle
JoeytheBrit21 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's a wonder that nobody has made a film about the making of this film: it certainly has enough tales of resistance fighters, Jewish refugees and Nazi collaborators to merit one. Often hailed as France's greatest movie, it's undoubtedly an event, and has an epic feel to it, even though the story takes place in one small part of Paris over a space of a few years.

Arletty (incredibly, closing in on 50 when she made this), plays Garance, a woman taking part in a sideshow attraction when we meet her, who meets a young mime artist, Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) who quickly falls under her spell. Arletty is also friendly with the marvellously roguish Pierre-Francois Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), who initially claims to have no feelings for her but who is, in truth, as besotted as Baptiste. It's Frederick (Pierre Brasseur), a budding actor, with whom Garance has an affair however. Until, that is, she is falsely accused of robbing a debt collector and must call on the help of wealthy admirer Abril (Fabien Loris).

That this film ever got made at all is something of a miracle. It took eighteen months, in the midst of a world war which saw financial backers bailing out as the tide of that war turned. It sheltered refugees from the Nazis and gave them work on its crew, even as its leading lady conducted an affair with a Nazi officer. That all involved managed to create something so close to masterful under such trying conditions is, therefore, something of a minor miracle.

This film contains individual scenes that achieve brilliance and that will stay with you to such a degree that you might be tempted to play just this scene or that every now and then to remind yourself of its brilliance. Despite including real characters, it creates a strangely isolated world of lovers and rogues, artists and drunks, tramps and eccentrics whose interplay is entirely believable, as too is the diverging paths through life each takes as they eventually converge once more to reach a tragic finale. The literate dialogue might be a little flowery on occasion, but the sophistication and depth of the story – just try imagining an American film from the same period, stifled by the restrictions of the Hays Code and the studio system, that could claim to come anywhere near to what this one achieves – draws the viewer in and immerses it in its world.

The story is essentially a study of the various forms of unrequited love, of the way it can become a controlling force in a person's life, give them hope, or lead them to despair. Each character in the film is largely moulded into what they become by their love, which is why, perhaps, it ends in the way it does, because this is one of the few films where you can truly believe that the characters and the story will still go on once the film is over, and that the surviving characters' feelings for one another will never change.

The film is long, but each scene is used with such incisive skill by Carne and writer Prevert to inform the audience of the thoughts and emotions of the characters that the time flies by and you come to understand them so well that, when the film is finally over, you really don't want to leave.
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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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