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UK. Marcel Carné's "Les Enfants du Paradis"

The French classic, now restored, returns to London.

Les Enfants du Paradis is back, now at the Ciné Lumière and BFI Southbank. David Jenkins in Time Out London: "In this crisp restoration of Marcel Carné's rich, literary romance from 1945 ('France's answer to Gone with the Wind!"), four men tussle for the affections of one woman, the conflicted, sphinx-like Garence (Carné regular Arletty), an ice maiden in the league of Marlene Dietrich who, in nearly every shot, has her eyes masked by a beam of light. Such ethereal, delicately cinematic touches are in otherwise short supply in a film which is content to let a dazzling, witty script (by Jacques Prévert), sumptuous set design and exceptional performers lend the fiction its lifeblood."

"Like all true love stories, it ends badly," writes Agnès Poirier in Guardian. "Equally important to the legend of Les Enfants du Paradis is the making of the film itself. It started shooting in Nazi-occupied France and was finished in liberated Paris just after D-day, times when power cuts were daily and hunger was fierce. Director Marcel Carné recreated Paris of the 1820s with cardboard decor in Nice's film studios and hired 1,800 extras. Some were Nazi collaborators imposed by the Vichy administration; others were résistants using the film as daytime cover. However, Carné, reproached for continuing to make films while others left for Hollywood or joined the resistance, put more than his career on the line when he hired set designer Alexandre Trauner and composer Joseph Kosma, both Jewish and banned from working. Their true identity was revealed after the war."

Les Enfants du Paradis is "as addictive as the most gripping soap opera," writes the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "The writing is utterly involving; with lines like tiny, imagist poems."

Updates, 11/13: Philip French in the Observer: "The movie's final parting sequence, where Arletty rides away in a coach and [Jean-Louis] Barrault is inexorably swept in the opposite direction by a swirling crowd, is among the peaks of romantic cinema."

"The first time I saw Children of Paradise I hated it," writes Derek Davis at the Chiseler. "I sat bored for two hours in the auditorium of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology watching a disconnected bunch of declamatory larruping about actors and mimes in 1830s Paris. So why on earth did I go back to see the uncut version, running over three hours? It defies justification, but I thank my peculiar instinct, because I’m a better person for it. The original version runs 190 minutes, and it builds emotionally during every minute. Despite the lavish setting, it is wholly a movie of character, detailing every form of human interaction imaginable. As a wracking document of love and obsession, it has no equal I know of."

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