Saturday, February 26, 2011

REVIEW: Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)

Les Enfants du Paradis (1945). Dir: Marcel Carné. Starring Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur. No rating. IMDB. In French with English subtitles.

After doing a post on my favorite Valentine's Day movies, my husband and I decided to actually watch one of them! We picked Les Enfants du Paradis because it's the only one on the list he hadn't seen. He loved it, and of course, so do I.

Set in early 19th century Paris, it's a love story and a story about the theater. Four men fall in love with the beautiful actress/courtesan Garance (Arletty)- shy mime Baptiste (Barrault, himself an accomplished mime), up-and-coming actor Frederick Lemaitre (Brasseur), criminal Lacenaire and the Comte de Montray, a dandy. She has relationships of one kind or another with all of them, but there is only one she truly loves.

It's a long movie- about 3 hours- divided into two sections. It was filmed in Paris under Nazi occupation, and I read once that the reason it was split was that the French Vichy government, which supervised the filming, didn't allow movies of more than 90 minutes to be produced. And the second part is almost more like a sequel; it picks up several years after the action of the first and takes its characters in different directions.

Les Enfants du Paradis is a truly magnificent film, a screen classic and essential viewing for anyone with an even half-way serious interest in the movies. The Criterion Collection DVD version includes an insightful introduction by acclaimed actor/director Terry Gilliam, who talks about what the film means to him and how it influenced his visual style. It's also a moving and bittersweet love story with a backstory worthy of a film of its own. 

And it's a Top Pick of mine!

Rating: RUSH

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