219 of 1001 Movies: Children of Paradise (1945)

I couldn’t help but keep recalling that the entire time this movie was being filmed in France that they were also still being occupied by Nazis at the time. It’s an interesting thought because it gets you to think of how it might affect the filming of this movie and what was on the actors minds at the time. It did affect production to some extent especially when Normandy happened, but in 1945 they were able to get the movie out there. For three hours though this movie isn’t the easiest to get into, but you have plenty of time for the characters to develop enough to find them fascinating.

Summary: Garance seems to attract a lot of men. She wanders the town while artistic events are happening, and crosses paths a few men who she will make a long impact on. Baptiste, a theater mime, falls deeply in love with Garance, but when Garance fails to return his feelings he begins a romance with Nathalie. The other men are Fredrick, who is a famous actor in the town, Lacenaire, a thief who looks for trouble, and Count Eduard. When things go awry in Garance’s life when she is tied to a robbery she ends up having to depend on the man she seems least attached to, Count Eduard.

Acting: Arletty portrays Garance and she has to be the most graceful actor in all the movie. Most of the others over act and their emotions don’t feel natural, but I feel the way Garance is town because of all her romances. I thought the tragedy of her life was well built up. Jean Louis Barrault is Baptiste, and I thought this guy showed a wide range of acting in this one movie. He interested me on stage as the mime and when out of costume as Baptiste. He also seemed to have a better handle on his emotions. Maria Casares was Nathalie and I felt really heartbroken for her character. I know some may view her as a roadblock for Garance and Baptiste, but the poor lady should have just been told the truth early. Pierre Brasseur is Fredrick, and he is one of the more likable characters. He seems like despite his heartache he is just trying to have a good time, and he wants to move on if someone doesn’t feel as he does for them.

Filming: French films usually have a very pretty quality to them. With this one the lights are soft, and the black and white has so much depth to it. The stage production for the mime sets and the other theaters was highly impressive to me. I hadn’t saw anything like the moving stage or the innovative ways that the time between 1838 and 1840 brought stories to their crowds. They put so much thought and art into the set and unlike now they couldn’t rely on special effects.

Plot: The plot does seem to be very filled with content that didn’t always develop the plot. There are many discussions, and actions that take place that overall could have been cut for time. I do like how it builds toward the end though, because by the end of the movie I was intrigued as to how all these relationships would go. The movie hints at tragedies, so you feel this movie can’t end well, and it mirrors many of the productions the actors were apart of. Supposedly, there are some World War II allegories, which would make sense considering when it was filmed. I couldn’t see any of those prominently featured though.

Children of Paradise is a classic piece of French cinema. It would get recognized as best foreign film from the Oscars as well. It’s a lengthy bit of story though, and does take some work to get into, but once you get focused on the characters it’s difficult to remain unattached. Plus, with the backdrop of this movie it makes it all the more interesting.

Rating 6 of 10.

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