2020-03-26 07:44:40 UTC
as for some reason I have little else to do these days I figured it's
time to get started on them. So why pick this one to begin? Turns out
some people, apparently including Marlon Brando and Francois Truffaut,
call this the "best movie ever made" or the "French Gone with the Wind"
and I had no idea -- none -- what it was about. So why not?
I'm actually glad I read a bit about it before I began watching because
it helped to understand the title. Turns out there are no children in
this thing -- OK, one -- and Paradise isn't what you'd think. Seems the
French refer to a theater's upper balcony as "Paradis," but translating
it literally as paradise misses the point. A British term from the upper
balcony, "the gods," comes closer to the intended meaning, and in fact
that term is used regularly in the English subtitles. The reason for the
term becomes obvious early on in the movie as you see the view from the
cheap seats where the poor rowdy rabble congregate and hurl insults down
on everything from high up above. "The gods." Of course.
The milieu is the theater district of Paris in the 1830s and the script
includes several lengthy stage performances that I guess are tied
thematically to the plot. Sure they are, and they're interesting to
watch so no problem there. There's even a performance of a scene from
Othello in French. This movie is packed with characters and I'm pleased
to report keeping them all straight was not a problem. I was especially
taken with the actress Arletty who played Garance, the lovely courtesan
who was dazzling when decked out in her lavish costume with sparkly
diamonds. Her four suitors were also played memorably: Jean-Louis
Barrault as Baptiste Deburau, the talented mime who keeps his remarkable
facial features covered in white greasepaint for much of the movie;
Pierre Brasseur as Frédérick Lemaître whose amusing charm is evident
even under Othello's blackface; Marcel Herrand as Pierre-François
Lacenaire who played a charming but soulless cutthroat beautifully; and
Louis Salou as Comte Édouard de Montray, who comes to Garance's rescue
and whisks her away to a life of wealth and privilege even though she
doesn't love him. (Now where have I encountered that before?) By the
way, all four of those characters were based on actual men from the period.
So is it as terrific as they say? Well, close, I suppose. It's certainly
long, very long, but the score soars and the sets and costumes are
incredibly elaborate and it's got a beautiful woman who infatuates
multiple men but discovers she loves only the one she shouldn't have and
as I mentioned the rich guy saves her bacon, and then there's that
ending and yep, the French Gone with the Wind.
But would you like it? I dunno. I did. Heck, by the end I had grown
to like these people, even the flawed ones, and I wasn't ready for it to
be over when it was over. But "best ever?" Nope.
I am the Mighty Favog
I am the Mighty Favog