A tragic French epic considered a classic romantic film, Children of Paradise
takes as its setting a theater troupe in Paris during the 19th century, but was actually filmed during the last years of World War II. In the troupe, a mime (Jean-Louis Barrault) falls in love with an actress in the company, but must vie for her affections with others, including a thief, an actor, and an influential count. When the actress is accused of theft, the mime exonerates her with a bravura performance for the prefect. Eventually, though, the actress must flee Paris under protection of the count after being mixed up in a crime with the thief, leaving the smitten mime heartbroken. In the intervening years, both become involved with others, the actress with the count and the mime with the daughter of the theater owner, eventually having a child. Both couples are unhappy, and although the mime rises above the poverty-stricken neighborhood where he has honed his trade and becomes wildly successful, he still pines away for the love of his life. Eventually the two lovers are meant to meet again, but their storybook ending may yet elude them. The film boasts a picaresque squalor drawn from the time in which it was set, highlighting the tenacious romance at its core. Children of Paradise
has a melancholy feeling both authentic and immediate, a romance with moments of pure magic. --Robert Lane
Poetic realism reaches sublime heights with Children of Paradise (Les enfants du paradis)
, the ineffably witty tale of a woman loved by four different men. Deftly entwining theater, literature, music, and design, director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert resurrect the tumultuous world of 19th-century Paris, teeming with hucksters and aristocrats, thieves and courtesans, pimps and seers. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this milestone of cinema in a new high-definition film transfer made from the restored negative.