As a lover of theater and classic novels, I must say that the film ‘Children of Paradise’ is truly an art-lover’s paradise.
This grand artistic masterpiece is so often billed as the French ‘Gone with the Wind’, but I find this to be a very big insult. It is really a film that cannot be compared to any other, and that it what makes it one of the best of all time. Like a novel, it’s a long, sweeping tale full of details, but it is punctuated with grand performances of members of the theatrical world of Paris in the nineteenth century.
At the center of those entertaining the children of paradise (which refers to God-like audience members who sat high above the stages on balconies, passing judgment on the performers below) is the lovely Garance, a beautiful performer who draws crowds with her loveliness. Like a bird that when caged stops singing, Garance’s charm lies not only in her beauty, but in her flighty independence that won’t allow her to get tied down to any of her four suitors: a criminal, a successful actor, an aristocrat, and a mime.
In the film, affluence, crime, poverty, and performance all magically blend to create a world that you will find yourself drawn into. This film is often described as the best of the genre of poetic realism, but it’s hard to describe it with just these two words. It is full of pride, desperation, longing, vanity, melancholy, and so many more human emotions, making it a very realistic film that feels surreal and dreamlike at the same time. It’s not just poetry; it’s art, music, and theater.
It’s amazing that director Marcel Carne and the rest of the cast of this epic succeeded in completing it, because it was being shot during the Nazi occupation of France. This led to no shortage of setbacks, like having to protect Jewish members of the cast, set designer Alexandre Trauner and composer Joseph Kosma, from being found by Nazi officials. They worked in complete secrecy during filming, and their names were not used in the credits of the film. Supply shortages, damage to sets, and Nazi restrictions made filming difficult and caused numerous delays. Still, everyone involved persevered, and the result is something that was definitely worth struggling for.
I love novels, and my husband loves film, and we both love this movie. So, no matter what art form you enjoy, you will be sure to find something about this film to fall in love with.