Children Of Paradise Movie Review

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People (mostly French people, I presume) have called Children of Paradise a French Gone With the Wind. It's equally epic in scope, but good luck following along. Filled with the haughty arrogance of 1940s France, even the title of Children of Paradise is something of an over-your-head joke. The gaggle of characters hardly live in paradise -- they populate the "Boulevard of Crime," working as mimes, thieves, or hookers. And they're all in love -- four of them, in fact -- havin fallen for "actress" (read: prostitute) Garance (French actress Arletty, way ahead of her time with the one-word name thing).

The rivalries over Garance become so fierce that a man actually ends up nearly killed. That's the entire first half of the movie (which runs a dizzying 3 hours, 10 minutes). Of Garance's lovers, we are meant to root for the mime (Jean-Louis Barrault) (and there are endless scenes of pantomime), but in part two, we find he and Garance both trapped in loveless marriages to other people. They eventually meet again. Tragedy ensues. Three hours to reinvent Romeo and Juliet without any of the color.

While Children of Paradise is desperately lacking in story, it is truly groundbreaking as a filmmaker's showcase. Sweeping overhead shots, remarkable crowd scenes, and simply clever photography are probably why critics and Francophiles have really fallen for the film. (Just listen to Terry Gilliam's inexplicable introduction on the Criterion DVD: "I like this film because it's about the theater." Huh?!? He then goes on to discuss the cinematography.) On DVD, the film is restored quite beautifully, but there is still a surprising amount of crud on the print. A wholly overdone commentary track deconstructs the film to its most minute detail -- to the point of absurdity.

If you're dying to see the movie, though, this new DVD is definitely the way to see it.

Aka Les Enfants du Paradis.

Cast & Crew

Director : Marcel Carné

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Children Of Paradise Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 1945

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