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Treasures from the Archives: Les Enfants du Paradis

18 October 2011

At the 55th BFI London Film Festival, there are a variety of classic features presented to the fortunate public, lucky enough to get their hands on tickets. An unforgettable experience for those who haven’t seen such important and celebrated movies to see them for the first time – and equally as memorable for those who have, and are simply revisiting their favourite films, restored and on the big-screen, at the National Film Theatre.

In this instance, treasure is an understatement, as Marcel Carne’s renowned feature Les Enfants du Paradis was shown to a packed house of providential spectators.

The French production, from 1945, centres on the tragic and hapless love story between mime artist Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) and beautiful stranger Garance (Arletty). The lady in question was not just the subject of Baptiste’s affection, but also that of flourishing actor Frederick (Pierre Brasseur), Edouard de Montray (Louis Salou), and the cool criminal Pierre-Francois Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand).

One of the most highly-celebrated films of all time, Les Enfants du Paradis not only highlights the wonders of love, but the heartbreaking aspects also. The restored edition of the film – making its London Film Festival premiere – filled the screen with its quaint splendour, beginning at the vibrant and hectic market scene, and ending equally as vivacious, at the carnival.

The film, translated in English as Children of Paradise, has a beautifully witty and intelligent script, packed full of the French charm that we have grown to adore over the course of cinematic history. It’s an enchanting production, triggering an array of emotions for all whom observe.

As you leave the cinema and walk out onto the South Bank after such a movie, you witness both old and new fans of the production alike; some clearly in a contemplative mood, whilst some have that look of those who have just seen of the greatest films of all time.

My only issue with showing such a film at the festival is that it only makes the array of upcoming releases seem somewhat less momentous in comparison.

For more information, please visit the BFI's official website.