- Purchase any product from the Film and TV Store sold by Amazon.co.uk and receive £1 to use on any music download in our MP3 Store. Here's how (terms and conditions apply)
The heart of the plot is a love story between mime artiste Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) and streetwalker Garance (the magnificent, sand-paper-voiced Arletty). When Garance is falsely accused of pickpocketing, Baptiste provides a mimed alibi for her to the police (one of the film's most famous set pieces). The rose she later throws him in gratitude sets off a romantic obsession, one of several that structure the film, as do love triangles, duels, and tortured confessions of feeling.
Thematically, Les Enfant du Paradis gnaws over typically French cinematic preoccupations: illusion and reality, the nature of performance, the indomitable spirit of the proletariat and so on, all made the more charged and poignant when you know the film was shot during the Nazi occupation. (One actor, Robert Le Vigan, was reportedly a Nazi collaborator and disappeared during the filming under mysterious circumstances and so had to be replaced by Pierre Renoir.) --Leslie Felperin
Four characters, (loosely based on historical French figures) vye for the eye of the beautiful and serene Garance. The four stereotypical male character types that have continuously made great cinema over the last century. The cold millionaire aristocrat, the genius criminal, the amiable noble adventurous lover and finally our tragic hero, the romantic artist. Each seek her in their own way, yet each selfishly encroaches her formidable freedom with their tragic flaws. The romantic needs her exlusively and needs her unconditional love, the aristocratic will only ever see her as an object, he will never 'love as a poor man'. The lover is too full of dramatic hyperbole for her truthful sensibility and the criminal can never love, for his dark humour and excessive intelligence can not grasp its simplicity. For it is true, 'L'amour, c'est simple.' but it is also tragical and farcical. This film does justice to this fact on a grand and beautiful scale and certainly deserves its plaudits as one of the top ten best films of all time.
Arletty is beautifully seductive as the heroine and one can quite understand why the hero, Jean-Louis Tritignant, would leave a wife and child whom he adored for the chance of her love. But the real stars are 'les enfants du paradis' themselves - the audience in the 'Gods' of the popular theatre 'Les Funambules' (sp?) where Jean-Louis is the mime artist.
Sounds gripping? Probably not. But please don't let this review put you off. Nothing in cinema is as great as this film, IMHO.