141 Children of Paradise

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Martha
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141 Children of Paradise

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:28 pm

Children of Paradise

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Poetic realism reached sublime heights with Children of Paradise (Les enfants du paradis), widely considered one of the greatest French films of all time. This nimble depiction of nineteenth-century Paris’s theatrical demimonde, filmed during World War II, follows a mysterious woman (Arletty) loved by four different men (all based on historical figures): an actor, a criminal, a count, and, most poignantly, a street mime (Jean-Louis Barrault, in a longing-suffused performance for the ages). With sensitivity and dramatic élan, director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert resurrect a world teeming with hucksters and aristocrats, thieves and courtesans, pimps and seers. Thanks to a major new restoration, this iconic classic looks and sounds richer and more detailed than ever.


Disc Features

- New high-definition digital transfer from Pathé’s 2011 restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentaries by film scholars Brian Stonehill and Charles Affron
- Video introduction by director Terry Gilliam
- Once Upon a Time: “Children of Paradise", a 2010 documentary on the making of the film
- New visual essay on the design of Children of Paradise by film writer Paul Ryan
- The Birth of “Children of Paradise,” a 1967 German documentary that visits Nice, where the film was partially shot, and features interviews with cast members Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur; production designer Alexandre Trauner; and others
- Restoration demonstration
- U.S. trailer
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dudley Andrew and excerpts from a 1990 interview with director Marcel Carné



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lord_clyde
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#2 Post by lord_clyde » Wed Mar 02, 2005 9:35 pm

I found this dirt cheap and bought it, not knowing anything about it. Anybody want to tell me about it before I watch this 2-disc epic? Is it even an epic, I'm assuming because it runs so long. Thanks!

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#3 Post by toiletduck! » Wed Mar 02, 2005 10:11 pm

This was my introduction to Criterion, also because I found it dirt cheap, oddly enough... I've added another fifty or sixty Criterions to my collection since then, and this is still in my top three.

It's been far far too long since I've seen it last, so I don't feel terribly comfortable going into detail about it, but I would in no way consider it an epic... it's a Meet Joe Black three hours as opposed to a Lawrence of Arabia three hours.

And yes, that's meant as a compliment...

-Toilet Dcuk

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#4 Post by lord_clyde » Wed Mar 02, 2005 10:18 pm

Thanks! I did some research and have found that this is a well loved film, considered by many to be the greatest French film! I'll admit that I was reluctant to get this before (at usual criterion price) because the cover looks, well. . . Frenchy I guess. Just read the booklet and now I can't wait to watch it!

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#5 Post by david hare » Wed Mar 02, 2005 11:35 pm

LES ENFANTS is certainly Carn'e most "epic" work and this may be what weakens it to some extent. I very much like his earlier movies (all of them really) but particularly HOTEL DU NORD, LE JOUR SE LEVE and QUAI DES BRUMES. In these the talents of his frequent screenwriting collaborator Jacques Prevert come into estimable service in the formation of French"poetic Realism" (there was quite a bit of discussion about this in the previous forum.) When we get to LES ENFANTS the themes and characters are very attractive but I personally find the monumentalism of the film somewhat overwhleming. What I mean is the sheer scale of the picture becomes a distraction from the necessary intimacies of the themes of theatre and life. I also find the performances somewhat variable, for instance Barrault who is wonderfully fresh and comedic in DROLE DE DRAME comes across as somewhat heavy handed in LES ENFANTS, and so on. But it is undoubtedly a grand picture, and an unusual one in French cinema for that. It is also of interest as a work conceived and filmed under the Occuaption forces (like Gremillon's LE CIEL EST A VOUS and so on.) I at least hope it inspires folks to watch even more of Carne, in particular the pre-war movies.

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#6 Post by david hare » Thu Mar 03, 2005 4:07 am

May the god in heaven or hell forgive my typos.... (or struth! as they say in my country.)

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#7 Post by lord_clyde » Thu Mar 03, 2005 4:10 am

Your typos have been forgiven my son. Three hail marys and three our fathers. Go forth and sin no more! 8-)

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#8 Post by Tom Hagen » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:58 pm

I am trying to get a sense of what the Cahiers crowd thought of this film. I've read a piece by Vincent Canby suggesting that Truffaut criticized Carne in "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema," but I also seem to remember reading that he did praise this particular film (if not others of Carne's). Does anyone have a more concrete sense about how Truffaut or others viewed Children of Paradise?

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#9 Post by tavernier » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:14 pm

Here's an excerpt from Truffaut's interview with critic Charles Thomas Samuels:
S: But some of them created great films. Isn't that admirable? Or do you deny the greatness of a film like Carne's Children of Paradise or Clement's Forbidden Games?

T: I first became interested in films during the war, and therefore the first films I saw were native. I liked Children of Paradise, all the Carne-Prevert films---I even liked The Night Visitors, though I don't anymore. I liked the films of Becker, Clouzot's The Raven, and, of course, above all, the films of Renoir. Then there was the shock of the American films after the liberation. I saw them when I was thirteen or fourteen and in random order, without knowing which were made during and which after the war. I found them all richer than French films---except the best of ours, like Children of Paradise and the films of Renoir.

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#10 Post by jdcopp » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:04 pm

Quotes from "A Certain Tendency" concerning Carné or Prévert. I can find no mention of Carné by name in that article.
At the beginning of the sound period, French cinema was an honest marked-down copy of American cinema. Influenced by Scarface, we made the entertaining Pepe Le Moko. From that point, French screenwriting owes its most definite progress to Jacques Prevert, Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows) lives on as the masterpiece of the school spoken of as “poetic realism”.
The war and the post-war years have renewed our cinema. It has evolved through internal pressure and in the place of poetic realism - which can be said to have died out, closing behind itself The Gates of Night (The Portes de la Nuit) - psychological realism represented by Claude Autant-Lara, Jean Delannoy, Rene Clement and Marcel Pagliero, was substituted.
Considering the monotony and steadfast baseness of the scripts of today, one finds oneself thinking back to the scripts of Jacques Prevert. He believes in the devil and thus in God. And if most of his characters had been by this lone whim made guilty of all of the sins of creation, space is left always for a couple, a new Adam and Eve, on whom as the film ends, the story is going to recommence.
Additionally, this is the thumbnail critique of Carné from the May 1957 "Situation of French Cinema" special edition of Cahiers du Cinema:
Gamboling not without some awkwardness in a private world of the most formal poetry (“Les Visiteurs du soir“, ”Juliette ou La clef des
songes“) but asserting a consistent taste for recreating the atmosphere of an epoque ( “Drôle de drame“, and “Les Enfants du paradis” which so enchanted the anglo-saxon spectators). Carné is quite himself only as a populist. He has frequented all the little bistros of the Republic, of the Faubourg Saint-Martin or of Boulogne-Billancourt, the dance halls and the furnished townhouses. His Parisien films have the “back-to-work” sourness of the day after a holiday when it is necessary to return to one’s labors. He remains quite strictly tied to a social period -- the Popular Front. Carné lived his golden age as the nucleus of one of the most perfect teams of French cinema -- Prevert, Trauner, Jaubert and Gabin. Friends quarrel intensely and do good work together. Today Carné must defend by himself a prestigious reputation, but he is still the capable artisan whom we knew before 1939. Mad lover of impeccable work, tending towards a formalism a little too dried out that he perhaps inherited from his master, Jacques Feyder.
And this is an article that I once prepared on Cahiers and Jacques Prevert.

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#11 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:16 pm

Ha, and I was just about to go dig up quotes from your blog for this thread too!

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#12 Post by Haggai » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:59 pm

Tom Hagen wrote:I am trying to get a sense of what the Cahiers crowd thought of this film. I've read a piece by Vincent Canby suggesting that Truffaut criticized Carne in "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema," but I also seem to remember reading that he did praise this particular film (if not others of Carne's). Does anyone have a more concrete sense about how Truffaut or others viewed Children of Paradise?
Do you have the Criterion DVD? The booklet has excerpts from a Brian Stonehill interview with Carne from 1990, where Carne rips Truffaut for having been critical of him for many years, and then only praising CoP in front of an audience, but not in print. It doesn't really answer your question about what Truffaut and the other Cahiers people thought of the film, but I could quote the relevant passage from the booklet, in the (well, probably unlikely) event that you don't have the DVD.

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#13 Post by david hare » Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:20 pm

I think for Truffaut, Godard and other Politique critics viewed Carne's work as slipping into formal bombast or preciosity from Les Enfants onwards. particularly with wartime/Occupation era pictures like Les Portes de la Nuit, Les Visiteurs du Soir, etc. A lot of their criticism is probably provoked by the "fantasy", anti realist/escapist nature of the screenplays themselves, and of course they ued to have a running pun/gag about typical Tradition de Qual titles always ending with "de l'ennuie" - "Portes de L'ennuie", etc.

The whole issue of what if any damage they did to the overall reputations of fine directors like Carne or Duvivier with the Politique is the subject of a much larger inquiry. For my own view most of Carne's postwar work is unwatchable, with the singular exception of the fascinatingly perverse L'Air de Paris - one of the great gay texted movies of French cinema. And I have to say Les Enfants, despite a surfeit of great moments is not my favorite Carne by any means.

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#14 Post by Tom Hagen » Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:08 am

Thank you all; very helpful. This forum is such an excellent reservoir of knowledge.

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#15 Post by jdcopp » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:33 pm

Carné in the booklet for Les Enfants du paradis is quoted thus,
I'm not criticizing Truffaut, but one day we inaugurating a movie theater in the suburbs where there were two theaters: a Truffaut theater and a Carné theater. And we went up on stage together - Truffaut had dragged my name through the mud, mind you - but I was very honored to have my name together with Truffaut's. I'm not sure he felt that way. He said so many nasty things about me...Anyway, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which was easy to do after ten years. he finished his speech by saying, "I've made 23 movies and I'd give them all up to have done Children of Paradise."
I recently ran across this interesting quote from an interview of Truffaut by André Parinaud which was printed in the edition Arts for April 29-May 5 (the week The Four Hundred Blows was shown at Cannes) in The 400 Blows a film by François Truffaut from a film-script by François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy Edited by David Denby Grove Press 1969 (page 226-227)
It can be said roughly that cinema has gone through three stages: first, the silent era, when film was a physical performance, the era of Griffith and John Ford. Making a film in those days was like being in a wrestling match: the director bore the weight of the film, and a considerable amount of equipment, on his shoulders. He had to get a cast of thousands moving. The Deglane of this era - that is to say the wrestler at his purest - was Griffith, and the executioner of Bethune was Cecil B. DeMille.
With the era of the talkies, cinema became more intellectual. It became a by-product of the novel, and above all of the theater. It fell into the hands of the semi-intellectual. The era was represented at its worst by the Feyder-Spaak duo and at its best by Prevert and Carne.
We have now entered the third stage: that of the intellectuals, an era when physical performance no longer enters the picture, when all the technical problems are taken care of by a large and experienced film crew.

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#16 Post by Tom Hagen » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:13 pm

Apropos the Truffaut discussion, I was going through the supplements on the Criterion disc of The 400 Blows again last weekend, and in one of the interviews (circa 1964), Truffaut mentions seeing Children of Paradise something like a dozen times at the cinema while he was growing up. (He also mentions in the interview that to the date of the interview he had seen over 3000(!) films). Truffaut's comment was in the context of his life-long cinephilia, and was specifically brought up to illustrate the astonishment of even his closest moviegoing friends at how often he would see films. Taken with everything else that has been discussed here, I think its pretty safe to conclude that Truffaut was a pretty big fan of the film, his critical history with Carné notwithstanding.

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#17 Post by karmajuice » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:28 pm

I watched this last night (watched the second half last night; watched the first half a week or so ago). Bought a friend of mine the disc for his birthday. He's studying theatre (acting,directing,writing,music; all aspects) and an instructor of his mentioned how she gave up her medical studies to become a mime after seeing this film. I'd never seen it before so we watched it together.

I liked the film, though it doesn't inspire me to mimehood. It had no tremendous impact, but it seems to affect the theatrically-minded more than the cinematically-minded. I have some questions about the characters, though, and wondered about others' reactions.

SPOILERS follow, of course.

First off, most people (including Carne, based on his interview in the booklet) seem to take a sentimental view of the film and sympathize with Baptiste. I saw Baptiste as pathetic: completely ineffectual when faced with any choice or turmoil (in the beginning when he doesn't embrace Garance, when she reappears and he just mopes in his room, at the end when she leaves and he's stranded in the crowd). He cannot consummate his love for Garance, but he marries Natalie: why? Out of convenience? Pity? Indifference? When he finally manages something with Garance he betrays his dedicated wife and then (again) cripples under a dilemma (an inability to face or even speak to his wife when she confronts them). His pantomimes end up reading like escapist fantasy as a result, an inability to confront reality, an inability to articulate himself.

Garance is perhaps more unlikable, even despicable. She's entirely self-interested (much more so than the likewise accused Lemaitre, who has an air of frivolity and narcissism but who we see is giving, forgiving, and dedicated to his art). Some might view her independence as admirable, but it's one that relies entirely on degrading and manipulating others. If she becomes bored with someone she leaves them, regardless of how it might affect that person. She essentially plays the role of male conquest, reversed, but I don't see how that becomes any more justifiable solely because she's a woman. She has distinctly femme fatale-ish characteristics.
Part of this reading may stem from the fact that I find Arletty utterly unconvincing and dull in the film. She has a perpetual, phony smile on her face (I don't know that it ever changes). She looks like a woman who should be painted, not filmed. She worked best in the pantomime, as the statue: she is boring, she lacks dynamic, and as a result I can't find myself attracted to her, or even vaguely interested. The role might have played beautifully with someone like Dietrich (her role in The Blue Angel is somewhat similar), but with Arletty it's just flat, scripted arrogance.

The count, and this is presumably a common reading, is unlikable and rather two dimensional.
I mentioned Lemaitre before: one of the few likable characters: open, honest, certainly self-interested and a bit frivolous, but also charming, charitable, and concerned with his art and the people he knows.

Lacenaire is the other character who interests me. His actions seem the most deliberate (often cruel, cunning, and immoral, but deliberate and effective). It's hard to tell how he feels about Garance (whereas the other three men clearly love her in some capacity); even Carne expresses some doubt about his love of her in the interview.
I wonder whether Lacenaire is gay. I read (unfortunately cannot remember where) that the real Lacenaire may have been a homosexual. He's a dandy, always dressed up and immaculate. His sidekick, Avril, also gives hints: the flower, his interest in Lemaitre, some of his mannerisms. He never expresses (to my recollection) a sexual interest in Garance; he reminds me of Lydecker in Preminger's Laura, a homosexual who's obsessed with a female protagonist.
His last scene can also be read as suggestive, where he stabs the count to death in the baths (while Avril watches). The whole notion of his possible homosexuality could merit substantial discussion, though, so I don't want to go into too much detail.

I've rambled some, but those are roughly my feelings about the characters. Any dissenters? Anyone feel similarly?

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#18 Post by david hare » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:38 pm

Not a dissenter at all. I think that's a very good read. Certainly I am with you both on Lacenaire as probably gay, and a general dissatisfaction with Arletty's performance - I just don't care for her in these grand roles (ditto Carn'e other major wartime film Les Visiteurs du Soir) far preferring her in the fishwife, prostitute, commoner realm of Hotel du Nord, Quai des Brumes and L'Air de Paris.

She is one of the things that takes my regard for les Enfants down a notch, as a generally great work about performance itself, and life lived through the realm of theatre.

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#19 Post by Matt » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:59 pm

Many years ago, I wrote a lengthy college paper on the subject of the real Lacenaire's homosexuality. There is no way to prove it, of course, not even from a careful read of his memoirs, but it's pretty clear that Carné intended to cast him as homosexual in the film. There's the issue of his being "in love" with Garance in the film, but I like to think that he is jealous of the attention she receives from men and that his love for her is as a companion who is as callous and calculating as he. When she proves that she does have a heart, he tries to destroy her.

The real Lacenaire, though, is as much a theatrical creation as the character. Not "gay" maybe, but certainly a libertine and definitely a cold-blooded murderer. His book is a real hoot.

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Re: 141 Children of Paradise

#20 Post by Foam » Mon Apr 13, 2009 6:05 pm

I am a little confounded with this film. On one hand I just have problems with it's style and manner, which I cannot be helped out of and will keep it from being one of my favorites no matter what, but I think I'm most deeply disturbed that Carne sympathizes the most with Baptiste, and makes his tragedy seem much larger than Natalie's--a point I want someone to try and dissuade me of before I add this to the list of classic movies that have offended me. Does the fact that someone is a suffering (and talented) artist because he cannot "have" his idol really endear us to him to the point where his suffering is more tragic than that of the humble, idealistic woman who has dedicated herself to him? I am also disturbed from reading some reviews online that focus on Garance's alleged likability. Perhaps I totally misread the film, but upon completing the it, I was under the impression that Carne made Garance out to be a pretentious fleck, while it seems from what I've read that she's some sort of proto-feminist hero. Really? As said above, "[s]he essentially plays the role of male conquest, reversed, but I don't see how that becomes any more justifiable solely because she's a woman."

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Re: 141 Children of Paradise

#21 Post by PillowRock » Thu May 28, 2009 4:11 pm

Just recently watched this for the first time.
Foam wrote:I think I'm most deeply disturbed that Carne sympathizes the most with Baptiste
I guess that I just didn't find it at all surprising that a movie's script and direction would tend to sympathise with overly sensitive "artiste" who could be said to live too much in the fantasy world of theoretic perfection and not enough in the pragmatic real world. I would expect a lot of artistic personality types writing and directing movies to sympathise with that character.
Foam wrote:makes his (Baptiste's) tragedy seem much larger than Natalie's
To me, it didn't seem that the movie was saying that Nathalie's tragedy was smaller or less important than Baptiste's. It's just that Nathalie's tragedy doesn't happen to be the focus of the movie. Every movie (or, at least, every well written one) has some focal point that is the center of what is being looked at. In Les Enfants du Paradis the focal point happens to be Garance's close relationships with men (at least that's how it appeared to me after one viewing). As such, Baptiste's tragedy is right at the focal point, while Nathalie's is a dgree of separation removed from it. It isn't a matter of thinking that Nathalie's tragedy is a smaller thing; just a matter of being disciplined about staying on your focal point. (And since the movie is over 3 hours long as it is, it's probably just as well that they didn't follow such *relative* "side issues".)
Foam wrote:As said above, "[s]he essentially plays the role of male conquest, reversed"
I see Garance as deviating pretty radically from the "role of male conquest" (at least, from my understanding of that phrase) on a couple of counts.

First off, she never makes any attempt to "conquor" or chase *any* man romantically. She never picks someone out and tries to win him. She only avails herself of offers made by men who are already actively chasing her. (As opposed to, say, Frederick; who runs a whole line of pick-up patter on Garance in their first meeting, and as soon as Garance is out of earshot starts the exact same line on the very next pretty girl he sees in the crowd.)

Secondly, she never lies to any of those men. She never tells them "Yes, I love you more than life" to get what she wants, only to drop them when the current whim fades. She is up front with all of them about her feelings and what she wants. As far as I can recall, the only one that she ever professes any love for is Baptiste, but she is driven from him by pragmatic concerns ..... which is really the way in which she is his polar opposite.

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Re: 141 Children of Paradise

#22 Post by Foam » Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:14 pm

You may be right that Baptiste is the focus of the movie, but its construction felt to me far more like it was meant to be a sweeping, ensemble-based exploration of a situation rather than focusing on one character; if I'm not mistaken Baptiste isn't even the first main character introduced. It was not until the end that any focus on Baptiste was clarified. But even if he is the focus of the movie, then Carne's choice to focus on him seems to me an admission that he sees Baptiste's tragedy as the most compelling and worthy of sympathy, as he admitted in an interview, which I don't find particularly interesting at all. If he ended with Natalie's tragedy that would have perhaps approached interesting; by virtue of ending with a relatively "side" character, it would have worked as an exploration of how we hurt people the same way we have been hurt; instead it lapses into what felt to me like unearned emotion with Baptiste running through the crowds. When Natalie tells off Garance, she demonstrates the emotional weight she deserves for us to invest in her... she talks about her tangible commitment, which is not to say that love must be made tangible through action to earn our sympathy, but how is any equivalent emotional weight earned between Baptiste and Garance?--through platitudes about how "I was really with him all those nights in spirit" or some such dross, through platitudes about each others' eyes, as if that wouldn't equally apply to Natalie's love for Baptiste as well? As such I don't see why he deserves the grand ending more than any other characters. It is as if Carne expects us to feel for Baptiste more than the others just by virtue of the fact that he gets the most screen time, or worse, just by virtue of the fact that he is a talented and supposedly "sensitive" artist, as if that counts for anything, as if he somehow feels more deeply than anyone else.

Also, even if "a reversal of the male conquest" isn't the best way to describe Garance's behavior it seemed to me that she relished her power over men (something I picked up on more in her performance and facial expressions than in anything she said; so it may just be an inadvertent result of blase acting) which is a trait I find downright repulsive in any person, and as such reject any feminist-critical deification she has garnered as a "strong woman". Strong for me is not characterized as merely doing what is most convenient for you at any given moment, by flailing according to momentary emotional whims regardless of who you harm in the process. This is why Garance's declaration for love of Baptiste, and vice versa, seems entirely unconvincing and unsympathetic to me.

If you haven't noticed I don't like the film. The trailer said it was the French response to Gone With The Wind; makes sense. I hate that one too.

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Re: 141 Children of Paradise

#23 Post by david hare » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:14 pm

I agree with you Les Enfants suffers from the sort of bloat that infests something like GWTW. BUt for all that it has seeds and elements - surely most notably the art and life conceit, with all the grand passions in full flight of performance.

Yes, the movie has always been burdened/followed by its reputation as THE great Carne classic for fifty plus years - I actually first saw it in 1964 at one of doubtless many revivals. It was always one of the big party pieces of the French Embassies and revival houses, and of course its over exposure led to the neglect of so many more (and better) movies - by Carne among others.

But there is so much more and better Carne, and I would hate to think you've decided to avoid him on the strength of this movie alone. How can you resist Quai des Brumes or Le Jour se Leve or Hotel du Nord?

Get back to us on these - they're all readily available.

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Re: 141 Children of Paradise

#24 Post by PillowRock » Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:06 am

I didn't say that I thought Baptiste was the focus of the movie. I said that Carne sympathised with him, which is not the same thing.

If there is one character that could be described as the focus, then it would be Garance. Really, though, the focus isn't any one character; it *is* an ensemble piece where the focus is a web of relationships ...... and that web centers on Garance and includes Baptiste, Frederick, Lacenaire, and the Count. Nathalie is one step beyond that whole ring.

To me, the mere fact of ending on Baptiste in the crowd didn't give his thread any kind of primacy. You *must* end on one of threads, and on a number of counts that one makes the sense to me.

Ending on Lacenaire killing the Count is probably the next best option, but editing the events of that last morning in that order creates potential problems in the impression that it will give about the timeline and Garance's intent to try to stop the duel. Was she wasting time somewhere between leaving Baptiste and going to the Count? In this regard, having the Count already dead in the audience's mind takes care of this and also adds another layer to what is being registered / felt at the end: Garance is leaving Baptiste to take care of a problem that no longer exists.

Ending by going back to Frederick makes no sense at all at that point and would be a complete anticlimax. I mean, what would be the point of seeing Frederick's seconds coming back to him to tell him that the Count has been murdered?

Ending on Nathalie would leave you with the impression that Babptiste had run off *with* Garance, leaving one of couplings in that web intact at the end. Actually, it seems to me that *this* would be the ending that would imply the primacy of the Baptiste - Garance relationship, even in ending on an image of the collateral damage that it caused.

By showing us Baptiste *not* catching Garance, they're finishing off the last potential relationship from that initial web. The entire web of relationships that we saw come together is now over. With the carnival going on in the street, that's also the ending option that is the most visually cinematic. It also is the one that works as a finishing "bookend" to whole thing, matching the opening carnival scene at the beginning of the movie.


As for Garance supposedly being some sort of feminist icon / hero .....
That's not how I perceived her. But any such claims, written some time after the fact by other people with their own agendas, are irrelevant to me. I just watched the movie itself; what others later thought about it isn't the movie's fault.

I will say, though, that I don't find Garance's conduct in her love life to be any worse than ... say, for example, Frederick's. Relative to that time period I can see how Garance could be seen as a step for feminism purely in terms of eroding double standards; a sort of "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" sort of statement. Traditionally, a male character could still be shown in basically sympathetic terms despite having 3 or 4 lovers, but for women this behavior would only come from a "bad" character. The portrayal of Garance will tend to at least bring up that inequity ..... regardless of which side of it one may think needs to be adjusted.
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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 141 Children of Paradise

#25 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Mar 02, 2011 3:47 pm

Having just watched this, I'm going to dive in to a two year old discussion:

I think Natalie, though sympathetic on her own part, is actually a character whom I found easy to dislike- she enabled Baptiste's Byronic self-pity, and if anything inflated his image of himself as a suffering artiste in whom any action was justified. Moreover, her relationship with Baptiste was based essentially in emotional blackmail. Her argument was never "Baptiste cares about me", and Baptiste (within the movie) never claims to do so; just that she loves Baptiste so much that he somehow owes it to her to care back. Though she has a legitimate claim on consideration, due to her place as Baptiste's wife and the mother of his child, she is also totally willing to use that place to manipulate him- particularly through his son. It seems plausible that she had the son explicitly as a means to further entangle Baptiste to herself.

Her speech about the difficulty of maintaining love over years of actual physical presence, as opposed to the airiness of fantasy, is certainly a powerful one, but it's one undermined by the reality of the relationship as we see it. Baptiste seems no more in love with her than Garance does with her Count, and I'm not certain of why she has greater claim on his emotions than the Count does on Garance's.

That said, I found Baptiste and almost totally unlikable character, at least in the second half. He's a child, and I think the film intends you to see him as a less than totally admirable person, particularly in showing that his alter ego Pierrot is willing to murder to achieve his romantic ends. According to the commentary, both the historical character Baptiste is based on and the original script's version of Baptiste were equally willing to kill for their ends, and all his alien gentleness turns to something monstrous. He's an utterly selfish man, as are many of the movie's characters, but in his case it manifests in an almost autistic way; he's selfish because he forgets that others are as fully human as he is, and should be treated as such. Thus, not only does he not love his wife, he's totally oblivious to her and to her pain- and to his child.

I had a great deal of respect for Garance- she is never less than honest in describing what she thinks and how she feels, and she is relatively adult in her willingness to sever herself from what she wants for what she thinks is important. As far as she is concerned, she is racing away from her love at the end to save the life of her friend- a noble act, and one that few others in the movie would be capable of. I'm not sure I see anything in her behavior that's particularly worthy of censure.


Overall, the movie reminded me enormously of Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point- which, though set a century later and in a different country, is similarly an examination of the different philosophies of life held by an intricate web of closely linked characters, and how they bounce and ricochet against one another. I've seen some other people complaining about the grandiosity of the movie, but I must confess that in a sense that's my favorite aspect- the intricately rhymed and balanced script, with its constant dramatic ironies and shifts of viewpoint might have been ponderous in a movie with less engaging characters, but however much I disliked some of them I never found anyone in the movie less than compelling.

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