Set in the Parisian theatre scene during the 19th century, the film follows the beautiful courtesan Garance (Arletty) and the four men who love her: actor Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur), criminal Pierre François Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), aristocrat Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou), and mime Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault).
Jealousy belongs to all if a woman belongs to no one.
Children of Paradise is often referred to as the Gone with the Wind of French cinema, and with a running time of just over three hours, I was always rather intimidated by it and therefore put off watching the film for a few years. Fortunately, Children of Paradise doesn’t feel long at all and almost feels effortless, which is amazing considering that it was made during World War II. Each character is interesting to watch, and the film’s actors perform them wonderfully. The most intriguing character of all though is the mime Baptiste, played by Jean-Louis Barrault. Barrault conveys so much emotion through his facial expressions as the mime, and the character continually draws in both the audience he performs for and us as viewers. Baptiste also has the strongest connection to Garance (Arletty), and as the film progresses we see how their lives are intertwined, pushed apart, and brought back together.
The film looks at a universal theme we all can relate to in one way or the other: love. Sometimes it’s unrequited and doesn’t come at the right time, and sometimes it’s a mutual bond that lasts only for a short time. The four men that love Garance all love her in different ways, showing the many aspects of this complex emotion. I had a lot of high expectations going into Children of Paradise, and though it’s not a perfect film for me, it’s one that I’m very glad I watched, and I hope to see it again to appreciate it even more.
Children of Paradise (1945)
Directed by: Marcel Carné
Starring: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur
Oscar Nominations: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
Well, this concludes my 2015 Blind Spots series! I enjoyed finally crossing off a dozen highly regarded films, paced perfectly at once a month, so I’ll be doing the challenge again next year. I’ll post my list next week with my film year in review, so look out for that.