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Children of Paradise (Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 137 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Poetic realism reached sublime heights with Children of Paradise (Les enfants du paradis), widely considered one of the greatest French films of all time. This nimble depiction of nineteenth-century Paris’s theatrical demimonde, filmed during World War II, follows a mysterious woman (The Pearls of the Crown’s Arletty) loved by four different men (all based on historical figures): an actor, a criminal, a count, and, most poignantly, a street mime (La ronde’s Jean-Louis Barrault, in a longing-suffused performance for the ages). With sensitivity and dramatic élan, director Marcel Carné (Port of Shadows) and screenwriter Jacques Prévert (Le jour se lève) resurrect a world teeming with hucksters and aristocrats, thieves and courtesans, pimps and seers. Thanks to a major new restoration, this iconic classic looks and sounds richer and more detailed than ever.

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer from Pathé’s 2011 restoration
  • Audio commentaries by film scholars Brian Stonehill and Charles Affron
  • Video introduction by director Terry Gilliam
  • Once Upon a Time: “Children of Paradise,” a 2010 documentary on the making of the film
  • New visual essay on the design of Children of Paradise by film writer Paul Ryan
  • The Birth of “Children of Paradise,” a 1967 German documentary that visits Nice, where the film was partially shot, and features interviews with cast members Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur; production designer Alexandre Trauner; and others
  • Restoration demonstration
  • U.S. trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dudley Andrew and excerpts from a 1990 interview with director Marcel Carné

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir, Marcel Herrand
    • Directors: Marcel Carne
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: French
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 2
    • Rated:
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: September 18, 2012
    • Run Time: 190 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B008CJ0JS4
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,377 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2003
    Format: VHS Tape
    CHILDREN OF PARADISE has a history almost as remarkable as the film itself. Production was just beginning when Paris fell to the Nazis; the work was subsequently filmed piecemeal over a period of several years, much of it during the height of World War II. And yet astonishingly, this elaborate portrait of 19th Century French theatre and the people who swirl through it shows little evidence of the obvious challenges faced by director Marcel Carne, his cast, and his production staff. CHILDREN OF PARADISE seems to have been created inside a blessed bubble of imagination, protected from outside forces by the sheer power of its own being.

    The story is at once simple and extremely complex. A mime named Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) falls in love with a street woman known as Garance (Arletty)--and through a series of coincidences and his own love for her finds the inspiration to become one of the most beloved stage artists of his era. But when shyness causes him to avoid consumation of the romance, Baptiste loses Garance to her own circle of admirers--a circle that includes a vicious member of the Paris underworld (Marcel Herrand), rising young actor (Pierre Brasseur), and an egotistical and jealous aristocrat (Louis Salou.) With the passage of time, Garance recognizes that she loves Baptiste as deeply as he does her... but now they must choose between each other and the separate lives they have created for themselves.

    While the film is sometimes described as dreamy in tone, it would be more appropriately described as dreamy in tone but extremely earthy in content.
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    2 Comments 163 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    Once again Criterion delivers one of the all time great French films, Marcel Carne's majestic "CHILDREN OF PARADISE" ("Les Enfants du Paradis") in a superbly restored, bounteously filled two-disc digital transfer . The screenplay by poet Jacques Prevert is a celebration of theater, art, music and literature. The story follows the life and loves of the serenely beautiful and worldy-wise Garance (Arletty) and the four masculine archetypes -- from sensitive to sordid -- with whom she becomes entangled. This epic, wise, witty, romantic melodrama unfolds in an 1820s Parisian society teeming with hucksters, aristocrats, pimps, prostitutes, courtesans, psychics and performers.
    The actress who went by the single name Arletty was born Leoni Bathiat. On screen and off she was perceived as a free spirit who believed in "neither God nor the devil and still less in the men around her." Shortly after WWII she faced a prison sentence for having an affair with a Nazi officer. In "Children of Paradise" Arletty dominates the screen and is a palpable force of light and shadow that reverberates somewhere deep in the psyche.
    A decade ago this world class film underwent a major restoration for the laser disc. For the DVD transfer, Criterion claims it digitally cleansed an additional 30,000 flaws and filtered minute snaps and pops on the sound track as well. It is unlikely that a finer print of this magnificent black and white film exists anywhere.
    The film itself is divided between the two discs. Disc 1 "The Boulevard of Crime" features an insightful and clever introduction by Terry Gilliam who lauds the sheer theatricality of the enterprise as a perfect marriage of poetry and big budget filmmaking. An astute commentary is provided by film scholar Brian Stonehill.
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    Comment 63 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
    Children of Paradise is, quite simply, the best film ever made. It's one of those strange, lyrical movies that must be seen at exactly the right time in life, or its true meaning is elusive. The story works on many levels -- what IS this about? Paris? Life? The Theater? Thumbing one's nose at the Nazis? Thumbing one's nose at Arletty? Yes. But mostly, it's about the timelessness of Love and all it entails. It's about pain and retreating into -- and out of -- dreams. Children of Paradise is about watching life unfold from the safety of the "paradise" -- the peanut gallery, the balcony, the cheap seats. In English, the language of this film is haunting; in French, it's sublime perfection. I saw this film for the first time in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was 19. I was also recovering from a devestating head-injury which robbed me of my ability to speak French. For the first part of Children of Paradise, I struggled with subtitles. Then something magical happened: I understood. "I dreamed. I hoped. I waited." Universal. Children of Paradise is not for everyone. It's a film of the heart -- raw and powerful. On the surface, the imagery is nothing special -- but combined with the meaning of Prévert's words, it's a force to be reckoned with. This film is nothing short of a masterpiece.
    4 Comments 110 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    I just bought this movie on DVD after seeing it on vhs last year and I was really anxious to rediscover it. The thing that amaze me the most about this masterpiece is the high quality of the writing. I've seen a lot of Marcel Carné's movies with Jacques Prévert's screenplays and let me tell you, this is a dream team of directing and writing. All the characters are different so they all bring something of their own to the mix. Baptiste the mime, a romantic, gives Garance (Arletty) poetic words of love. Frédérick the great actor, also a seductor, brings words of love with a nice touch of humor. Lacenaire the criminal (my favorite character), the pessimist whose rage against the world makes for the greatest black and intelligent writing I have ever seen in a movie. The count , a snob that you couldn't help but hate, brings the words of the upper class but always with wit and sarcasm. And Garance, stuck in the middle of these casanovas, always sure of herself and always the right word (great performance by Arletty by the way). So you have it, a 3 hour screenplay with words of love, humor, sarcasm, witty black dialogue and I didn't even talk about the great story (other reviewers did a great job doing it). Let just say that the performances are all great and the story plays real life like the theater, which is genius since the movie is about the theater. In this day and age of stupid one-liner and special effects with no decent screenplay (except maybe in independant films), this is a breath of fresh air. The transfer by Criterion is quite good. They restore the image and the sound and believe me the french films of this period (1940's) are in bad shape on vhs.Read more ›
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