The Daily Agenda for Sunday, August 18
August 18th, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Ascension Beach Party, Fire Island, NY; Dunas Festival, Gran Canaria, Spain; Tropical Heat, Key West, FL; London to Paris Cycle for Terrence Higgins Trust, London/Paris; Camp Camp, Portland ME; Provincetown Carnival, Provincetown, MA; Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver, BC.
Marcel Carné: 1906. A major figure in poetic realism, French filmmaker Marcel Carné bgan working in silent film as a camera assistant. In the mid-1930s, he went to England to work on Alexander Korda’s Knight Without Armour (1937) while directing Jenny (1936), which was the start of Carné longtime collaboration with surrealist poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert. Carné had the misfortune of being in France during Germany’s invation, where he continued working in Vichy.
Filmmaking is always a complicated enterprise, doing so in wartime under a repressive dictatorial regime added another set of difficulties when Carné began work on what became his most highly acclaimed film, Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise). He had to work around Vichy restrictions, shooting the film in two parts to comply with Vichy’s 90-minute limit. Starving extras made off with food before banquet scenes were shot. Some of those extras were Resistance fighters, who used the cover of daylight filming to allow them to meet together. Set designer Alexandre Trauner and music composer Joseph Kosma, both Jews, had to work in secrecy. The main quarter-lile long set was destroyed during a storm, electricity was as intermittent as the funding, film stock was rationed, key personnel were reassigned to other projects by authorities, and production was suspended following the Allied landing at Normandy. After Paris was liberated in 1944, production resumed, but one of the actors was sentenced to death by the Resistance for collaborating with the Nazis; all of his scenes had to be re-shot with a replacement. When Children of Paradise was finally released as a single three-hour film (and without an intermission), it became an instant success, remaining at the Madeleine Theater for the next 54 weeks.
Children of Paradise would be the pinnacle of Carné’s career. Riding on the success of Children of Paradise, Carné’s next film, Les Portes de la Nuit was given the largest budget in the history of French film. It flopped, and it would be Carné’s last collaboration with Prévert. In the 1950s, Carné was eclipsed by the French New Wave, and his films, except for 1958’s Les Tricheurs were typically panned by critics. Openly gay, Carné often cast his partner, Roland Lesaffre, in many of his films. Carné made his last film in 1976. But Children of Paradise was never forotten. It was voted “Best Film Ever” in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals in 1995, and was restored and re-released on blu-ray in 2012. Carné died in 1996.
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