Sunday, July 28, 2013

Les enfants du paradis

On this closing day of the 12th quarter of the page's publication, I find myself by coincidence revisiting Marcel Carné's Les enfants du paradis (1945), and the moment strikes me as not premature to draw attention to that phrase's presence in the Matter list in the side-bar, all this time. Probably nothing typifies an allegorical under-current in things around here, with any more pointed signal than the reference to the schoolings we go through, not always institutional, under the heading irresistibly swiped from this film. I accept the misconceptions about this interest in the schooling experience, which any reader might have noticed about this page, off-site; and I have no interest in defending rmbl against the incurable suspicions of others. No page can afford to wear a sign, stipulating to its safety, and at the same time purport to enact the experience of learning. That way lies orthodoxy, against which I have argued, not least, as an illusory security. I could hardly embrace one lie to deflect another.

I do adopt an imagery of vitality to celebrate that experience, therefore, for more than merely nostalgic reasons: it continues and requires renewal. But for today, I acknowledge the almost immeasurably radiant and stimulating, sustaining movie Carné and Prévert fashioned in the final months of extreme creative hazard, in wartime France. Les enfants du paradis writes its own review before our eyes, in international restoration for dvd, and renews its claims to be known, intimately, adapting the theater of the streets and of the stage, as Renoir and Kurosawa would later do, to craft the ark of humanity.

Surprise, surprise: a prodigious Dionysian energy ~ sensual, spontaneous ~ marks this movie as a film, as surely as if revolving sprockets drew its text and textures across a beacon out of Anton Mesmer, rallying clusters of the curious from the dark. It's how it is, for ces enfants du paradis, whether they know their Nietzsche or not; and if there is any premise more arresting in this movie than the primogen-iture of Eros, I do not know what it is. The sprocket bridging the gap, the spark leaping the arc in Les enfants du paradis, between being and knowing, is nothing more complex than a stroll down its richly populated Boulevard de Crime - learning. Have we time for hun-ger that declines its own feast?

For classmates.

Marcel Carné, director
Jacques Prévert, screenplay
Roger Hubert, cinematography
Alexandre Trauner, design
Les enfants du paradis
Pathé, 1945
Criterion Collection 
  restoration and editing, 2012©


  1. surely it can not be so long ago that we began our schooling? it must be so-since you have been nudging me some of the answers that I seek. For that help I am grateful-no cheating, just feeding. To another year at the table, PGT

    1. Thank you for dropping by, PGT; it is always, 'a blast' in the amiablest sense. I have to laugh, though, at the distinction you draw between cheating and feeding, because it reminds me of Jean-Louis Barrault in "Les enfants," as the great mime. We all, selecting fewer of your page's facets to emulate than meet the eye, cheat pretty merrily and with seldom a dollop of attribution.

    2. I have added this one to my netflix queue tout de suite.

    3. It is as probable that you are not steeped in "Les enfants du paradis" as it is to believe the March Hare could acquaint the Queen of Hearts with an amusing herb to dip in her water. It seems to me that the whole of "LA" is inoculated in this genius tapestry. But you're right to draw attention to the shallowness of the reference above, and I stand prospectively admonished :)

      The movie is a glory. Watteau's great friend, the critic Jed Perl ("Antoine's Alphabet," a phenomenal condensation of confession and scholarship in a slip of a text) wrote movingly of the inception of this film under "D," for Deburau, the historic model for Barrault's character. On its own, this essay captures the transport of commitment to art which one would have to be a March Hare to describe to you.

      But if you're queuing movies, may I ask you to pair this with Ettore Scola's 1982 film, "La Nuit de Varennes," in which Barrault re-appears as Rétif de la Bretonne, opposite Mastroianni as le Chevalier de Seingault, the two of them intolerably convincing in dialogue all the way to the capture of the fleeing Louis XVI. Scola's film begins with an overt send-up of "Les enfants," in its welling crowd scene along the Seine, and I think you will feel your learning being very companionably and pointedly relived. Besides, it is gorgeous to look at.

      Someday I will do an 'honest' posting on "Les enfants." I have preferred, and still prefer, to hint; but possibly the March Hare can tidy up for Sèvres.