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Children of Paradise Movie Review

nazis marcel barrault arletty

Children of Paradise/Les Enfants du Paradis was made in France over a two-year period between 1943 and 1945 during a time when the Nazis had overtaken the country. The Nazis demanded severe restrictions not only on the content of French films, but also on their length. Director Marcel Carne and screenwriter Jacques Prevert envisioned a lavish historical epic that was twice the length of an average feature, but told the Nazis that they were actually making two movies, secretly hoping, of course, that the war would be over long before their masterpiece was released. Moreover, Jewish composer Joseph Kosma and Jewish designer Alexandre Trauner were in danger at all times of being captured by the Nazis. Because she fell in love with a German officer, Arletty (1898–1992), the beautiful actress who played the leading role of Garance, was at one point imprisoned and sentenced to death. (She received a stay of execution and survived.) None of the incredible tensions that the cast and crew must have endured can be seen in the resulting three-plus hour film, released after the Allied liberation. Despite its length, this lyrical saga of love and longing moves like lightning. Because Children of Paradise showed the vanished world of the mid-19th century (magnificently photographed by Roger Hubert) and focused largely on a central female character, it has been favorably compared with Gone with the Wind. But for all its boisterous theatrical backdrops and passionate emotional undercurrents, Paradise is a far more subtle film. Jean-Louis Barrault (1910–94) plays Baptiste, a famous mime, who yearns for the elusive Garance as she moves from one man to another. She agrees to spend the night with this hopeless romantic with the words, “Love is so very simple.” Baptiste turns her down and by the time the two get a second chance, love has become irretrievably complicated for them both. Arletty and Barrault have never been better, and the supporting cast (which includes Pierre Brasseur, Maria Casares, Albert Remy, Leon Larive, Marcel Herrand, Pierre Renoir, Jeanne Marken, and Gaston Modot) deliver vivid performances in carefully chosen roles. (Arletty and Barrault later made appearances in 1962's The Longest Day.) AKA: Les Enfants du Paradis.

1945 188m/B FR Jean-Louis Barrault, Arletty, Pierre Brasseur, Maria Casares, Albert Remy, Leon Larive, Marcel Herrand, Pierre Renoir, Gaston Modot, Jane Marken; D: Marcel Carne; W: Jacques Prevert; C: Roger Hubert; M: Maurice Thiriet, Joseph Kosma. VHS, LV

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