Les enfants du paradis or Children of Paradise is one of the greatest French films film ever made.

That is a strong indictment for a movie but it’s true. Director Marcel Carné under extremely difficult conditions managed to create a masterpiece that stands the test of time.

The story is set in Paris in the 1830’s on the “Boulevard of Crime”.The film focuses on the beautiful Garance (Arletty) and the four men who love her. Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand) is a thief and criminal who is associated with Garance. When one of his crimes puts the blame on Garance, mime actor Jean-Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) helps save her and falls madly in love with her while Garance ignores his advances. She falls in with Jean-Baptiste Debureau’s fellow actor Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur) much to Debureau’s displeasure. Soon the wealthy Comte Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou) enters the picture and offers to protect Garance as long as she agrees to be his mistress. Soon she needs to take up his offer.

The film was made during WWII under the extreme conditions that the war had placed on those involved with making films. Money and film was limited and Carné and company stalled production until Paris was liberated. Once the film was finished it was finally screened in 1945 to much acclaim and box office success. The movie was actually made as two films under the restrictions imposed by the Nazis. When the film was finally released Carné wanted it to be screened as one giant film, not two 90 minute films. It was finally agreed to release it as one but at twice the price of a regular film.

The movie was restored last year and re-released on Blu-ray and it looks fantastic. It’s hard to convince people that a movie about the four loves of a woman featuring a mime is a great film but this is a fantastic film.