Set with a backdrop of bustling 19th Century Paris, Les Enfants Du Paradis revolves around the beautiful Garance (Arletty) and the four men who fall in love with her. Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault), a local mime and performer, Frédérick (Pierre Brasseur), a wannabe actor, Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand) , a well-educated thief, and finally, the rich aristocrat Count Édouard de Montray. A tragedy displaying the pain of love and the destruction of fleeting feelings, you can’t help but be transfixed by Marcel Carné’s beautiful tale.
At a staggering 190 minutes, one of the major successes of the film is what a pleasant viewing experience it creates, not once feeling like a chore or overlong which considering its length is miraculous to say the least. Characters and relationships have time to develop, breathe, and allow the audience to become invested. The complexity between Garance and Baptiste being the story that holds the most weight and the highest stakes, giving the film it’s only real selfless character.
Structured in two parts titled ‘Boulevard of Crime’ and ‘The Man in White’, its light, breezy, and somewhat charming approach to Boulevard is only accentuated by the drama and tragedy of The Man in White. And that’s how it leaves its mark, you never really understand how invested you have come until we finally get to see some true consequences to the actions of certain characters. Emotions and motivations turn in a second, characters you once cheered for become villains even, if only, to their own circumstance.
But now onto the disc, the film starts with some cue cards outlining the difficulties behind the creation of this new 4k transfer. And considering the original – terribly damaged – print they had to work with, the quality of this transfer is frankly amazing. However, when compared to other classic film transfers it’s a bit lacking, the clarity of image fluctuates throughout and is rather soft. Obviously, it looks monumentally better than it did but still, for a blu-ray release, is underwhelming. On the other hand, the sound is top notch; there are no noticeable faults or hissing with everything sounding pretty much exactly as you’d want it to.
Special features on the disc are well worth a watch as well. You’ve got an excellent new, near hour long, documentary called Theatre, Love and War: Making Les Enfants du Paradis, which outlines the creation and collaboration between the main players in the film. Another lengthy documentary titled Once Upon A Time… Les Enfants Du Paradis profiles the film and its importance in cinema. Finishing off with a few nice little featurretes about the restoration process and a before and after look. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the extensive extra content like the States’ Critireion release but there’s enough here to satisfy any fan of the film.
It’s a marvellously crafted comical tragedy that has a wit and charm but also the heart-breaking tragedy reminiscent of Shakespeare. It’s a true gem of cinema and one that deserves as much attention now as it did back in the 40s. Les Enfant’s Du Paradis is raw and insanely beautiful tale that still has an intimate feel even with its mammoth runtime.