1.03.2008

Les Enfants du Paradis


Joe and I watched the first half of an amazing French film called Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise). The story behind the film, called the "French Gone with the Wind", is as amazing as the film itself. Released in 1946, it was filmed during the French occupation. Actors were arrested during production for collaboration and entire sequences had to be reshot with new actors. The set designer and producer were both Jewish, had to work in complete secrecy, and were therefore not listed in the credits. Both resistance fighters (hired secretly to give them cover) and Vichy collaborators (required hires) worked side by side as extras.

The entire film is a wonderful allegory for Truth, and how men perceive her differently. The mime sees her with wondrous, naive innocence. The actor sees her as a dalliance, something to play with. The intellectual dandy treats her as a museum piece, to be coldly admired. The wealthy count - well, we haven't gotten to him yet. Intermingled with all this is an orderly parade of society from the bottom to the top as the film progresses, and lots of commentary about life imitating art, art as a liberator, and more. And I'm sure there's lots more going on that we haven't picked up on. This is a movie that requires multiple viewing.

We both cheer at the increasing frequency with which we can pick up entire phrases in French. The subtitles help, of course...

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