- Actors: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir, Mara Casares
- Directors: Marcel Carn
- Writers: Jacques Prvert
- Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC, Import
- Language: French
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 2
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Criterion
- Release Date: Jan. 22 2002
- Run Time: 190 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00005T30I
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Children of Paradise (Criterion Collection) [Import]
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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. Paris, 1828. Dans la foule présente sur le boulevard du Crime, le mime Baptiste Deburau, par son témoignage muet, sauve Garance d'une erreur judiciaire. Celle-ci, femme libre et audacieuse, en avance sur son temps, intimide Deburau qui n'ose pas lui déclarer franchement son amour. Nathalie, la fille du directeur, aime Baptiste. Garance entame une liaison avec un jeune acteur prometteur, Frédérick Lemaître, mais aime en secret Baptiste. Après que Baptiste les a invités à venir travailler au Théâtre des Funambules, Garance se trouve injustement accusée d'une tentative d'assassinat commise par son trouble ami Pierre François Lacenaire et se voit obligée d'accepter la protection du comte de Montray.
Quelques années plus tard, Baptiste, marié à Nathalie, obtient un grand succès sur les boulevards où il a fait de la pantomime un art reconnu et populaire. Frédérick a accédé lui aussi à la célébrité, et rêve de pouvoir monter Shakespeare. Garance, devenue depuis compagne du comte, est revenue à Paris et assiste incognito à toutes les représentations de Baptiste. Un jour alors qu'il se présente à la demeure du comte de Montray, Lacenaire en est chassé avec mépris. Il jure de se venger de cette humiliation, ce qu'il fait en découvrant aux yeux de tous Baptiste et Garance en train de s'embrasser – il tire le rideau qui cachait les amoureux isolés sur un balcon, opérant une fois de plus un effet de théâtre. Mais cette vengeance ne lui suffit pas : il assassine, quelques jours après, le comte de Montray. Après leur première et unique nuit d'amour, Garance, qui ne veut pas détruire le bonheur du petit garçon que Baptiste a eu avec Nathalie, s'en va, au désespoir de Baptiste.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Viewers may also be interested to know that three of the four lovers of Garance (Frederick LeMaitre, the actor; Jean-Baptiste Gaspard Debureau, the mime; and Pierre Francois Lacenaire, the criminal) as well as the Funambules theatre and certain of the events in the storyline, are based upon historical fact. The character Garance is more archetypal--love in the eye of each beholder.
Also, both of the male leads, Jean-Louis Barrault (Baptiste) and Pierre Brasseur (Frederick), strongly identified with the historical personages they were playing--so much so that they admitted they felt they were living rather than acting their roles.
For the curious, Jill Forbes' book, Les Enfants du Paradis (published by BFI Classics and available through Amazon), provides a great deal of fascinating information about the making and meanings of this film.
This is one of the most perfect movies ever made; if the audience is willing to shelve, just for a moment, their contemporary notions of beauty and can let themselves believe that the object of all men's desire in this movie is, in fact, stunningly beautiful. That was the only hurdle I faced watching this movie on the strength of nothing but its reputation; once I allowed my factory-set notions of beauty to be swept away by the power of the film, everything fell into place.
Amazingly, I had already seen a segment of the film unwittingly -- one of the pantomimes, excerpted at a National Gallery touring exhibit on clowns in art. I had been spellbound by it then, and had forgotten the name of the movie it was attached to, and was delighted to discover that the five-minute excerpt that I had found so brilliant and beautiful was accompanied by another nearly three hours (!!) of equally wonderful work.
I've never had a movie of this length go by so quickly. There is no second-act lag. There is no feeling of a grind to the finish at the end, which is rare for somebody of my limited attention span. Everything fits together like clockwork -- plot, characters, direction, music, sets, costumes -- so perfectly that the thrill of seeing how the film works is as great as the narrative itself.
Every once in a while you finish a movie and not only discover that you liked it, you feel compelled to make everyone you know watch it. Tally ho.
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 consumation 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 portait 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. I regret to say that I have not seen the film on DVD, and I look forward to that. But the double-tape video release, while plagued with occasional blips and streaks, is still very nice; the sound quality is good; and the subtitles are very clear and easy to read and follow. But be it on DVD, video, or better still the big screen, this is truly a film that must be seen by any one that appreciates world cinema. 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.
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