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Les enfants du Paradis 6: Chants d’habits September 21, 2006

Posted by Jeff in 1929 through WWII, Children of Paradise, Movies, Theater.

Accompanied by his new friends Lacenaire and Avril, Frédéric Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur) arrives to duel the authors of his latest play. Later, he attends the Funambules and encounters an old … friend?

Marcel CarneNot too many film directors have suffered the highs and lows of critical acclaim as has Marcel Carné (1906-1996), while surviving with their reputations more of less intact.

Carné had been a very successful director in France from the mid 1930s, with films such as Hôtel du Nord, Le Jour se lève and Les Visiteurs du soir, all directed when he was in his late twenties to early thirties. After the war his career took a dip with the relative failure of Les portes de la nuit, after which he never again worked with longtime collaborator Jacques Prévert.

The critics and filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague, most of whom weren’t that much younger than Carné, denounced him as outdated, and a symbol of the kind of “well-made” moviemaking from which they were trying to break free:

Marcel Carné is a pure technician, his virtues artisan; direction for him is manual labor. Marcel Carné, a confused soul, has never known how to evaluate a screenplay, has never known how to select a project. This work has been long done for him by others and for years we’ve been offered films by Jacques Prévert, set to images by Marcel Carné.

Despite one or two failures, Marcel Carné should not have parted from Prévert after Les portes de la nuit, which wasn’t such a bad film after all. Marcel Carné, henceforth, has been condemned to be cheated by the first screenwriter to hand, for it’s not every day that one comes across a new Jacques Prévert, in other words a man capable of inventing a story interweaving four or five actions simultaneously, involving a dozen characters who lose themselves and find themselves again within a perfect dramatic structure.

Marcel Carné is a very obstinate cineaste, a very careful one who generally gets what he wants even if that is of no interest. He’s a man who gives a stature to anything he has to film. If what he has to film is intelligent, then he highlights that intelligence; if it’s stupid, he highlights the stupidity […] The problem for Marcel Carné remains one of finding subjects that suit him and that are not too outdated.

—François Truffaut, ARTS magazine, Paris, October 31, 1956

The macho affectations of some of the New Wavers didn’t help the situation, given that Carné was not only gay, but as far out of the closet as one could go in that era. (Poor Marcel, what a “confused soul” …)

Before he died, Truffaut apologized to Carné and admitted that at least some of the criticism had been fueled by anti-homosexuality.

More of Les Enfants du Paradis.

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