So, we've reached the end of the year, and because of that we've reached the end of this year's Blind Spot Series! It feels so strange to be here, now, at the end. This year has just flown by. This year was a rewarding one, with regards to this series, for me. It was my first time participating, and my decision to stick to a singular decade (the 40's) proved so incredible. I was able to discover for the first time films that so many had discovered years ago, lauded and placed in such high esteem. Huston, Hitchcock, Chaplin, Lubitsch...just a few of the extraordinary directors I was able to indulge in during this series.
And now it ends.
So, I purposefully left a certain film for last, because it was the film I was most excited to see...
‘Children of Paradise’ is one of those films I’ve known for a very long time I needed to see. It’s been on my watch list for years, and in fact was even on my DVR for months before my wife deleted it, much to my furiousness. One of the reasons that it took me so long to actually watch the film was that I really felt the need to commit the whole 3+ hours to watching it. I didn’t want to watch this in parts, and finding a full three hours, uninterrupted and with all of my faculties, is very, very hard. I just never have that much time. I work two jobs, I have three kids, I have a wife…I barely have a life anymore, and by the time I get around to popping a movie in, it’s near midnight and twenty minutes in, I’m asleep.
I found the time…a rainy Sunday when the wife was sick in bed and the kids were out of the house at my mother’s. I settled into the couch with a smile on my face and a glass of wine and before long, I was in cinematic heaven.
‘Children of Paradise’ is a film that was made for me. I’ve been a longstanding advocate (quite vocally) for all things epic and all things French, and when you combine the two you make me a very happy man. Give me melodramatics done right! Give me tattered love stories steeped in well placed theatrics! Give me dialog dripping with sensual subtext! Give me those longing stares and those complex character developments and those unforgettable plights! Give me Marcel Carne molding such richness out of a tragic tale of love, loss and fate!
I ate this up.
The story centers on a love triangle of sorts that is turned into a square that splinters into a few directions thanks to many, many hearts in the fire. Garance is a beautiful and confident young woman, an actress, who captures the attention, and the heart, of a theater mime named Baptiste. Baptiste lacks the self-confidence to make a move and inevitably loses his chance when fellow actor and egomaniac Frederick Lemaitre waltzes in and makes Garance his mistress. It doesn’t end there though. Garance catches the eye of the Count Edouard, who makes his advances, and his services, known to the actress, who is also being pursued by a petty thief. When her reputation is compromised by certain connections, she finds herself running off with the Count, only to return years later to reignited passions with Baptiste, who is now married to the jealous Nathalie, who has borne him a son.
Carne handles the weight and expanse of this film with such care and delicacy, developing every facet of this ensemble with such richness. While the core may really comprise of Baptiste, Frederick and Garance, the characters of Nathalie, the Count, Lacenaire and even a slovenly Jericho feel complete and complimentary to the film. Jean-Louis Barrault is remarkable as the lovelorn Baptiste, delivering a performance that is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen put to film (seriously, so developed, so honest, so layered), and the beautiful sets and costumes just make this film feel so complete in storytelling, texture and impact.
So there we have it. This chapter of my life is over. I'm so happy I participated this year, and I wholly plan on doing this again next year (I'll have my selections for my 2015 Blind Spot up next week). I also plan on dedicating a post to my favorites from this years selection (performances/films/directors/techs) so be on the lookout for that. I also have an idea for a companion series for these Blind Spots, so be ready for that as well.