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Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition(1945)
This tragic tale centers around the ill-fated love between Baptiste, a theater mime, and Claire Reine, an actress and otherwise woman-about-town who calls herself Garance. Garance, in turn, is loved by three other men: Frederick, a pretentious actor; Lacenaire, a conniving thief; and Count Eduard of Monteray. The story is further complicated by Nathalie, an actress who is in love with Baptiste. Garance and Baptiste meet when Garance is falsely accused of stealing a man's watch. Garance is forced to enter the protection of Count Eduard when she is innocently implicated in a crime committed by Lacenaire. In the intervening years of separation, both Garance and Baptiste become involved in loveless relationships with the Count and Nathalie, respectively.
For more about Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition and the Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray release, see Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir, María Casares, Gaston Modot
Director: Marcel Carné
» See full cast & crew
Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 11, 2012
Marcel Carne's "Les enfants du paradis" a.k.a "Children of Paradise" (1945) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight Films. The supplemental features on the disc include original new trailer for the restored film; short short demonstration for Pathe's 4K restoration of the film; Julie Bonan's documentary film "Once Upon a Time: Les Enfants du Paradis"; new documentary on the film's production history and cultural significance; and a short featurette about Pathe's 4K restoration of the film. In French, with imposed English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The film opens up on the busy Boulevard du Crime where artists gather to impress the residents and guests of the French capital. There the beautiful courtesan Garance (played by the legendary Arletty, Flesh and the Woman) meets four men that would eventually compete for her love. The first is Frederick Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur, Eyes Without a Face), a young and ambitious actor who dreams of becoming a star. He flirts with Garance, she flirts back and then he casually reveals to her that he is different. Garance smiles and then quickly disappears into the crowd.
The second man is Pierre-FranÃ§ois Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand, Fanfan La Tulipe), an opportunist who would stop at nothing to accomplish his goals. Lacenaire is seriously disillusioned with society and incapable of tolerating its hypocrisy. This is why he often steals from those who have benefited the most from it.
While watching a play, Garance is accused of stealing the watch of a wealthy man. She is defended by the warmhearted mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault, La nuit de Varennes), who convinces everyone with a spectacular performance that Garance is innocent. Moved by his gentlemanly gesture, Garance gives the mime a flower and leaves Boulevard du Crime. As he watches her disappear, Baptiste realizes that he has fallen in love.
The fourth man is Count Edouard de Montray (Louis Salou, The Loves of Colette), a wealthy aristocrat with plenty of powerful friends. Like the men before him, the Count is struck by Garance's beauty and immediately offers her patronage. Her response surprises him, but gives him hope that if he is persistent one day she could fall in love with him.
In the years to come, the four men would compete for Garance's love. Some will be driven by their passion, others by their desire to prove that they could conquer any woman's heart. Along the way, these men will discover who they truly are, and that love is like quicksand - because the deeper one falls in it, the harder it is to get out.
The film is divided into two rather large parts - Boulevard du Crime (Boulevard of Crime) and L'Homme Blanc (The Man in White). The first introduces the key characters, the relationships that will be followed closely and the important dilemmas some of these characters will struggle to resolve. The best allegories, one of the film's greatest strengths, are also here -- justice and freedom are constant themes in the plays performed on Boulevard du Crime (remember that Children of Paradise was made during the German occupation of France during WWII and at the time French filmmakers were closely monitored by both Carlingue and Gestapo).
It is true that the film has a wonderful dreamy, unusually poetic atmosphere, but it never feels detached from reality. The characters and their emotions and feelings, triumphs and failures are completely authentic. In the second part, which begins a few years later, after each of the characters has experienced joy and sadness and their lives have headed in new directions, the fine line that separates life from stage drama is virtually invisible.
The script for Children of Paradise was written by the great Jacques Prï¿½vert, who worked with director Carne on a number of his best films, including Drole de Drame, Le Quai Des Brumes, Le jour se lÃ¨ve, and Les visiteurs du soir.
Note: In 1947, Children of Paradise earned an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Jacques Prï¿½vert).
Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Marcel Carne's Children of Paradise arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight Films.
I was asked to review this release because some of our readers were apparently hoping that it might be better than the disappointing Criterion release of Marcel Carne's legendary film. I was fairly certain that it won't be because it was pretty clear to me that the various very serious issues that plague the release could not have possibly originated in the U.S. Now having seen the Region-B release, it is perfectly clear to me that all of the issues point back to France, where the film was meticulously restored. For the record, I do not wish to speculate exactly where they originated from or who was responsible for what. But since Pathe are behind the restoration of the film, I think it is fair to assume that they are indeed the party that determined a lot of things.
All of the serious issues from the Criterion release are present here. Traces of moderate to heavy filtering corrections, for instance, can be seen throughout the entire film. Especially where light is restricted, the damage from the filtering is quite severe (see screencapture #16, which is matched with another screencapture from our review of the Criterion release, where the face and arms of the man are more or less filtered out). Many close-ups are also disappointingly flat and soft (see screencapture #13). Furthermore, the heavy filtering has also destabilized color saturation and density. For example, many times where one should be seeing proper blacks there are large blocks of gray. Needless to say, definition there also suffers a lot. Contrast is also compromised. There is heavy smearing in various parts of the film as well, at times almost completely throwing off the little detail that has been retained (take a look at screencapture #15, lower left corner). All in all, at this point I think it is fair to conclude that after Children of Paradise was meticulously restored in 4K, somewhere along the way before it ended up on Blu-ray the film was seriously damaged with powerful digital tools. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 2.0. For the record, Second Sight Films have provided imposed English subtitles for the main feature (they cannot be turned off).
The sound is crisp and stable. Clearly, various stabilizations have been performed, while background hiss has been removed. There are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Les Enfants du Paradis - Restored Edition Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I think it is fair to say that Children of Paradise's transition to Blu-ray is one of the year's biggest disappointments. I also think that it is quite sad to see that both Second Sight Films and Criterion clearly wanted to put very strong editions of this legendary film in different territories but could not do it. Their efforts were compromised by the problematic transfers they had to use for these editions - yet it appears that they had absolutely nothing to do with them. This is a very, very awkward situation. The best I could do is recommend that you rent this release and spend some time with the supplemental features. They are indeed very informative. RENT IT.
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