Monday, December 03, 2007

Les Enfants du paradis (Marcel Carné, 1945) aka Children of Paradise

Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)
Rating: 9.9

A beautiful romantic epic blooming from the tradition of occupied French poetic realism, Children of Paradise follows the intersecting paths of love and lust between Garance (Arletty) and four men for whom she is the object of desire. Although the film is set in 19th century Paris, the film allegorizes occupied France and employs fantastic camera work, lavish set decor as well as wardrobe. The film is full of richly distinct and intriguing characters, including Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault), the dreamer and popular pantomime artisté, who believes anything is possible. At one point he remarks that "dreams and life are the same thing." Frédérick (Pierre Brasseur) begins as an unemployed actor/ladies man, who eventually evolves into the most popular and beloved actor in the nation. Thirdly, there is the lonely, pessimistic, murderous, thief, Pierre-François Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand). Playing a foil to lover of life, Baptiste, Lacenaire decrees his disdain for humanity and most importantly illustrates the similarities between comedy and tragedy. Just before the climax Lacenaire warns "The plots are the same, however the distinctions lie in the character's class, however there are instances where all men are equal." The last love interest of Garance is Édouard, Count de Montray, a rich and jealous man who comments that the plays of Shakespeare are dull and bestial and best suited for the lower classes; "Today one comes not for the plays, but for the actors." There are several other characters of interest including Jericho the ragman, and Nathalie who falls in love with Baptiste and eventually mothers his child, despite his love for Garance. The film contains several acts of violence, however Carné makes use of elliptical editing to deny the spectator from seeing such acts, much in the same manner the Coen's do most recently in No Country For Old Men. Children of Paradise has much to explore, historically, philosophically, cinematically, etc., however I did have a minor qualm with the film that is very subjective and not so much a factor on my feelings towards it overall. I just found Garance to be a completely unlikable and unsympathetic character. Moreover I didn't find her to be the least bit attractive, in fact I was repulsed by her looks as well as her characters personality, but it seems that the filmmakers urge us to embrace Baptiste and Garance's infidelity.

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