'Children of Paradise'

The passion, the vitality and the grandeur of Marcel Carne's 1945 classic is so overwhelming it makes one re-evaluate all the other films considered masterpieces. With the elusiveness of love as its theme--and also the relationship of life and art (which here become one), it creates its own glittering world of backstage life, peopled with performers who discover themselves the heroes and the villains and the clowns in the tragicomedy of their own lives. The opening sequence is breathtaking. As the camera pulls back to reveal the vast, crowded Boulevard of Crime lined with sideshow attractions, it sweeps us into a carnival in the Paris of 1840. As the camera moves down the street it introduces us to the beautiful Garance (Arletty), billed as the Naked Truth, and some of the men who will enter her life: the young actor Frederick Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur) and the talented mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault, pictured) (Bravo Monday at 10:15 a.m.).

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