A work of poetry and dark humor, Les visiteurs du soir is a lyrical medieval fantasy from the great French director Marcel Carné. Two strangers (Arletty and Alain Cuny), dressed as minstrels, arrive at a castle in advance of court festivities—and it is revealed that they are actually emissaries of the devil himself, dispatched to spread heartbreak and suffering. Their plans, however, are thwarted by an unexpected intrusion: human love. Often interpreted as an allegory for the Nazi occupation of France, during which it was made, Les visiteurs du soir—wittily written by Jacques Prévert and Pierre Laroche, and elegantly designed by Alexandre Trauner and shot by Roger Hubert—is a moving and whimsical tale of love conquering all. —The Criterion Collection
Between 1936 and 1946, Marcel Carné was among the chief proponents of poetic realism, a studio-bound film style that combined theatrical themes with elaborate dialogues which depicted ordinary people attempting to contend with the unalterable nature of destiny. The shadowy fatalism of poetic realism presaged the more popular American film noir. Though the style was created by Jacques Feyder, with whom Carné apprenticed, it was Carné and poet/screenwriter Jacques Prévert who brought it to its full fruition with Enfants du Paradise (Children of Paradise) (1945), a work still considered one of France’s greatest films. Born and raised in Montmarte, Carné was originally slated to work for an insurance agency by his father, a cabinetmaker. Carné, however, was more interested in movies and secretly attended evening classes on cinematography with the Paris city council-sponsored Association Philomantique. Without telling his father, Carné left the agency in 1928 to work as an assistant cameraman… read more
At a time when the Germans were occupying France, Carné abruptly abandoned his pre-war style of downbeat poetic realism for escapist poetic fantasy in this acclaimed medieval romance in which one of two emissaries sent back to earth by the Devil to disrupt a wedding falls in love with the bride-to-be. The first hour is extremely good but when Berry appears halfway into proceedings, the film is elevated to greatness..