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CHILDREN OF PARADISE (LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS) (director: Marcel Carne; screenwriters: Jacques Prevert/from an idea by Marcel Carne and Jacques Prevert; cinematographers: Roger Hubert/Marc Fossard; editors: Henri Rust/Madeleine Bonin; music: Joseph Kosma/Maurice Thiriet/pantomime music by Georges Mouque; cast: Jean-Louis Barrault (Baptiste Debureau), Arletty (Garance), Pierre Brasseur (Frederick Lemaitre), Marcel Herrand (Pierre-Francois Lacenaire), Maria Casares (Nathalie), Pierre Renoir (Jericho), Louis Salou (Count Edouard de Montray), Fabien Loris (Avril), Gaston Modot (the Blind Man), Jeanne Marken (Madame Hermine); Runtime: 185; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Raymond Borderie; Home Vision Entertainment; 1945-France-in French with English subtitles)

It’s almost flawlessly filmed, though it at times lacks warmth.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Classic old-fashioned 19th century set humanist backstage drama period film that was filmed during the Paris Occupation and might have an allegorical message comparing the Occupation to the film’s plot about seeking freedom. It’s directed with robust and style by Marcel Carne (“Gates of the Night”/”Daybreak”/”The Devil’s Envoys”) and written with wit by Jacques Prevert. It’s about the three diverse men attracted to the elusive Arletty character and of the life of theater people residing on Paris’ Boulevard of Crime.It’s almost flawlessly filmed, though it at times lacks warmth. It plays out also as an homage to actors, as the cast is peerless. It’s based on real historical figures.

The Paris boulevard crowdsin the 1840s draw the likes of the flirtatious narcissistic classical hammy actor Frederick Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur), the sensitive idealistic star mime Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) and the dangerous misanthropic master criminal Pierre-Francois Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), the aristocratic Count Edouard de Montray (Louis Salou), the flighty courtesan Garance (Arletty) and the lovelorn regular girl Nathalie (Maria Casares). Their lives become intertwined, as they chase after love, freedom and riches. The mysterious Garance’s doomed love for the fragile mime runs deepest, but the mime keeps running into obstacles that keep him from realizing his desires.

Garance is pursued romantically by the actor, the mime and the criminal, but the wealthy Count steals her away with his wealth and removes her from the Boulevard. However Garance returns to Paris six years later (maybe signaling the end of the Occupation) and the three rivals pick up where they left off before in pursuing the working-class heroine, but with greater urgency and some with evil intent. Meanwhile Nathalie pines for the mime.

The memorable pic, with its poignant characters, has been honored as one of the greatest films ever made. It also took courage on Carne’s part to hire two Hungarian Jews, set designer Alexandre Trauner and composer Joseph Kosma. If caught, the Nazis were not the most pleasant folks to deal with.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”