Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Les Enfants du Paradis" by Marcel Carne and Jacques Prevert

I finished the latest rewrite of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor and just need to input the red pen changes, so I treated myself to one of the greatest movies ever made, bar none. It's got love, comedy, romance, tragedy, heartbreak, murder, insanity, hope, perseverance, the whole scope of human experience in all its beauty and stupidity. Even Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 97% rating, and says:

Even in 1945, Marcel Carne's "Children of Paradise" was regarded as an old-fashioned film. Set in the Parisian theatrical world of the 1840s, Jacques Prevert's screenplay concerns four men in love with the mysterious Garance (Arletty). Each loves Garance in his own fashion, but only the intentions of sensitive mime-actor Deburau (Jean-Louis Barrault) are entirely honorable; as a result, it is he who suffers most, hurdling one obstacle after another in pursuit of an evidently unattainable goal. In the stylized fashion of 19th-century French drama, many grand passions are spent during the film's totally absorbing 195 minutes. The film was produced under overwhelmingly difficult circumstances during the Nazi occupation of France, and many of the participants/creators were members of the Maquis, so the movie's existence itself is somewhat miraculous. Children of Paradise has gone on to become one of the great romantic classics of international cinema. ~ Hal Erickson

Baptiste is based on Jean-Gaspard Deburau, who is credited with inventing the character of Pierrot in Mime sometime between 1825 and 1830 at the Theatre des Funambules. He was born the same day as me, albeit in 1796, and died when he was 50. The character in the movie is, of course, enhanced in many ways, but the Mime presented is supposedly very close to what he used to do.

I have the Criterion edition, which includes an introduction by Terry Gilliam that is wonderfully droll and is a lovely copy of the film, showing off its glorious black and white cinematography. I saw it first in college and have seen it a couple more times, but not in years. I'd sold my copy when I lived in Texas and needed money. I bought this one a couple years ago, when I was in LA for the book fair and had an income, again. It still enthralls me.

I do have one question as regards the film. Is it wrong of me to identify both with Baptiste, the tortured genius who suffers from love for someone he cannot have, and also for Lacenaire, an unpublished playwright whose soul was built for murder? One the romantic in search of pure beauty, the other a cynic who sees the world for the banality that it is.

Does it really matter?

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