Thursday, June 7, 2007

Children of Paradise (1945)

Directed by Marcel Carne. Starring Arletty, Pierre Brasseur, Albert Remy, and Jean-Louis Barrault.

Carne's epic-length ode to the theatre has been referred to as "The French GONE WITH THE WIND", but I believe this to be far superior to that American so-called classic. Against a backdrop of 1800s Paris, we see the characters' destinies unfold: Frederick (Brasseur), a blowhard with aspirations to the stage; Lancenaire (Remy), a cold-hearted criminal; Baptiste (Barrault), easily the most likable mime ever to grace the screen; and Garance (Arletty), a woman of loose morals who captures the hearts of all the men around her. As the four characters drift together, apart, and back together, Baptiste emerges as the film's most poignant character- though he's idolized by both Garance and Frederick for his great talent, his obsessive love for Garance overwhelms him, culminating in one of the saddest sequences in any film I've seen. Carne shot much of CHILDREN OF PARADISE in secret, using clandestine sets to avoid the occupying German authorities of the time, and the result is perhaps the textbook example of a great film springing from difficult circumstances.

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