Friday, December 15, 2017

#614: Les enfants du paradis

Directed by: MARCEL CARNÉ
1945, TSPDT Rank #58

This is one of the highest-ranked films on the list that I still hadn't seen, and it did not disappoint. Many others have attempted to convey the idea that the whole world's a stage, but Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert may have done it best with this film. Carné started out as an assistant to Jacques Feyder, eventually becoming one of the leading filmmakers in the French poetic realist movement, making his mark with films such as Le quai des brumes (Port of Shadows), Le jour se lève and Hôtel du Nord. But by the time of this film, Carné had traded his pre-noir (and prewar) atmospherics for an 1800s period look and a feel of theatricality, which can sometimes disguise the fact that this is an incredibly graceful and well-structured piece of filmmaking.

A film like Jean Renoir's La bête humaine might suggest that people are defined by the work they do, and with the character of Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), a cynical and over-educated petty criminal who scoffs at the romantic rivalries of the other characters in the film and sees himself as the architect of their destruction, Children of Paradise also makes a similar point. The actors and mimes who make up the film's motley cast of characters are often shown at work, each performing their own solitary interpretations of life, but in the end, they are all characters in the same farce - and the roles they play on stage reflect the roles they play in real life. The carnival of life goes on and their romantic yearnings will ultimately be drowned out by the sea of life which continues all around them.

While this film may be more rooted in the past than Carné's earlier work, it nevertheless takes a poetic view of life which has much in common with the famous prewar French films of the 1930s, and its expression and execution of these ideas is second to none. This is definitely an excellent film which I regret not seeing earlier and am sure to revisit in the future.

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