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aka - Children Of Paradise, The
France 1945
Directed by
Marcel Carne
195 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
5 stars

Enfants Du Paradis, Les

Carné’s extraordinary film is one of the great cinematic representations of the asymmetry of love as well as being a rich essay on the relationship between the theatre and the real world (each of the film's two parts begins and ends with the rise and fall of a curtain on a stage). It was completed over two years of on again-off again filming during the early 1940s Occupation, in order to circumvent the Vichy edict that a film could not exceed 90 minutes, being presented as a two-part work with a running time of nearly three hours. Set designer Alexandre Trauner and composer Joseph Kosma, both Jews, had to work in secrecy whilst Robert Le Vigan who originally played the part of the informer-thief Jericho was sentenced to death for collaboration by the Resistance and fled the country. His scenes were reshot, with Pierre Renoir (brother of the director, Jean Renoir) in the part.

Set in the lower class theatre district of 1840s Paris, it tells the story of the beautiful Garance (Arletty) and the four men whom she variously loves or is loved by - mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault); feckless actor Frederic Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur); the ruthless petty criminal Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand) and the wealthy count Edouard (Louis Salou). Written by the director with his regular collaborator, Jacques Prévert, it is a deeply melancholy study of life as a tragi-comedy with the poetically sensitive Baptiste as the central male figure. Arletty (real name Arlette-Leonie Bathiat), whose career effectively came to an end after this because of her liaison with a German officer during the war, is an extraordinary presence in the film which makes of her one of the great screen idols, both gifted and doomed by a beauty which places her beyond the reach of mere mortals.




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