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Les Enfants du paradis

Directed by Marcel Carné

France, 1945

Cornerhouse, 8 January 2012

Les Enfants du paradis

The focus of the film is on the mysterious Garance, a model who we first see taking on the role of Naked Truth, albeit from the neck up, in a street show.

Played by the great Arletty, Garance is loved by four men but possessed by none.  One man is an innocent, proffering a love that’s pure; another is a playwright turned master criminal, and to him she’s a guardian angel; a third is a promiscuous player, worldly but none too wise; and then there’s a rich dandy, a Count with a penchant for fighting duels.

There are many pleasures and unexpected empathies to be had in this gorgeous film, celebrating the life of theatre and the theatre of life.  Drama and dreams, these are the stuff and spectacle of life, the theatre simply mirrors it.  That, in essence, is the proposition that Marcel Carné’s film sets forth.

It ends exquisitely, just like a Chekhov story, at a moment of maximal uncertainty: the fate of every character is perilous.

Les Enfants du paradis is showing again on Wednesday as part of Matinee Classics, details here.