by Michael Phillips.
With movies that are blatantly, ridiculously in love with the theater and its practitioners, the harshest critics tend to be those who love both mediums with equal, sentimental passion — the sort of feeling found in every frame of “Children of Paradise,” Marcel Carne’s 1945 epic set in the early 19th century Parisian entertainment district known as the Boulevard du Temple, also known as the Boulevard of Crime.
Not everybody loves this film. Undeniably Carne’s work, written by Jacques Prevert, swoons over its own poetry, while following the tale of a notorious actress (played by Arletty) and the men who love her, chief among them the mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault). But its power to enthrall remains strong, and a restored version plays Chicago this week at the Music Box Theatre.
Screenwriter Prevert’s story went before Carne’s cameras at an extremely dicey time, August 1943, in Vichy-controlled southern France. The Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian armistice forced the production to relocate to Nazi-controlled Paris.
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