Children of Paradise

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(1945, directed by Marcel Carné)

- inducted 2019 –

“Even if it had just been a film made by craftspeople as a standard, hourly job under traditional-if-artistic custom, Les Enfants du Paradis would be one of the most remarkable films ever produced in the first five decades of cinema as we know it. But it was never just a film as a job. And if time has elevated the circumstances under which it was made, that’s perfectly fine, because it has kept one of the most endearingly beautiful works of art about the creative impulse and the ability- no, the imperative- to create art by whatever means you can.

“But in the midst of the Nazi occupation, what Carné, and Prévert, and Arletty and Barrault and Kosima, and each of the staggering array of people involved managed to create was something transcendent- a film that existed, and exists, as a period piece, an expose, and a vision of a better future. In Theodore Roszak’s epic novel Flicker, Les Enfants du Paradis is ‘a thing of beauty that had been bravely raised up in an act of defiance by its creators against the barbarian intruder.’ And it endures as one of the preeminent works of resistance art in the twentieth century, Beset by Nazis, the anti-Jews Vichy laws, collaborators, international financing issues, and the very elements themselves, the film survived, rightfully held as a superb example of emotionally epic cinema.

“A love pentagon of both epic and tragic proportions, the array of men pining for O.G. model/actress/hooker/waitress (to quote the great philosopher Courtney Love) Garance span all social strata. Desire is one of the most enduring of common denominators, and it is in the way that Baptiste, Lacenaire, de Montray, and LeMaître are each captivated, changed, and reinvented by their time with Garance. She is a woman of beauty, yes, but also a character of will and agency who shakes the very Boulevard du Temple to its stones.

“The epics by their nature become absorbed into the subconscious. They are part of the artistic world around us for long enough that their influence becomes something elemental, and the legacy supersedes the actual work. But here, not so. To fall under its spell is a phenomenon one never becomes immune to. The DCP of this film, prepared by Gaumont during the earlier days of digital restorations, is an atrocity. Shorn of all texture and grain, the image seems waxy and artificial, which is a grotesque slight against the film, which has always brimmed with life and fire. But I watched this restoration in the old Film Forum seats, fearful of an aneurysm or blood clots or persistent numbness, knowing that what had been done to this film was not quite right.

“But still it enthralled, holding me in its tender, severe embrace. It was 2012, so it’s not like I had to fight Nazis like I would have had to do to make the film, or to enjoy it today. But I hold it in the special vault where the heart and the brain and the eyes all agree on the essential, and I recommend it to all.” ~ Jason Shawhan

Original title: Les enfants du paradis
Principal cast: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir, Maria Casares, Gaston Modot, Fabien Loris, Marcel Pérès, Pierre Palau, Etienne Decroux, Jeanne Marken, Marcelle Monthil, Louis Florencie, Habib Benglia, Rognoni, Jacques Castelot, Paul Frankeur, Albert Rémy, Robert Dhéry, Auguste Bovério, Paul Demange, Louis Salou, and Marcel Herrand
Scenario and dialogue by Jacques Prévert
Produced by Raymond Borderie, Adrien Remaugé
Cinematography by Roger Hubert
Production design by Léon Barsacq, Raymond Gabutti, Alex. Trauner
Costume design by Mayo
Film editing by Henry Rust, Madeleine Bonin (uncredited)
Original music by Maurice Thiriet, with pantomime music composed by Joseph Kosma
Sound by Jean Monchablom, Robert Teisseire (sound engineer), Jacques Carrère (sound re-recording mixer)

FRANCE
Duration: 190 minutes
Languages: French
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Produced by Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma
Released in USA by Tricolore
Premiered in Paris, France on 9 March 1945
USA release date: 15 November 1946

Awards and honors:
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 6 January 2002
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Writing, Original Screenplay (nominated)

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