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Children of Paradise [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: French LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: NR
  • Discs: 2 (2 x Blu-ray )
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 190 Mins.
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 18, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

1945’s Les enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise) from director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert, the same working duo responsible for the 1938 pre-noir masterpiece Le quai des brumes, is a lavish and grand romantic masterpiece. Set in the Parisian theatre scene of the 1840s, the story is multilayered, with stories within stories and stage plays within the film itself. It mainly revolves around the flirtatious and tarty Garance (Arletty) and the three men all vying for her love. Firstly there is the quiet and talented mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) whose big heart and pure devotion to Garance leave him the most vulnerable amongst his competitors which include the criminally minded Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), the pretentious actor and Lothario, Frédérick (Pierre Brasseur) and the wealthy Count Edward de Monteray (Louis Salou), who will use his influence to ensure he obtains possession of Garance when she is most vulnerable.  At the center of the conflict is the true love that the star-crossed lovers Garance and Baptiste share, but the two will inevitably be victims of their circumstances. Taking place in two distinct acts, the film’s triumphs are in its conveyance of human passions and desires, its meticulous recreation of the era and the overwhelming circumstances the filmmakers overcame to create such a beautiful vision. Les enfants du paradis was filmed over the course of two years during the Nazi occupation, done right under the noses of the invaders, yet it evokes a world devoid of the doom of the surroundings in which it was created; that may be its greatest achievement.

(Editor’s Note: Portions of this review not related to this release were previously published as our Les enfants du paradis [UK] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures are from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

This edition of Les enfants du paradis from Criterion Collection utilizes the same Pathé restoration that was previously released (and reviewed here) by Second Sight Films in the UK. It has undergone an extensive restoration and reconstruction by Pathé from the original nitrate negative and two nitrate fine grain masters scanned at 4K. Refurbishing was done at Ritrovata (Bologna) while reconstruction and picture restoration done by Éclair Laboratoires (Paris). While viewing the side-by-side comparisons available on this disc, it is easy to see the vast improvement that has been made. With that being said, at times the soft focus of the original shots and the restoration process lead to the image looking just a bit too smooth and lacking in finer details. There are also some places where there are some unavoidable issues like banding and posterization to varying degrees as a result of the different sources used to reconstruct the film.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The sound, which was also cobbled together from multiple sources, was restored from the original sound negative scan and the original monaural mix is offered as a LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) track, versus the Second Sight release’s LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) track. It still sounds rather boxy and muffled, but, as before, this is unavoidable and the audio is more than adequate given the period it was recorded and the material it sourced from.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

In comparison to the Second Sight Films release from the UK, the Criterion Collection’s set is heavier on high quality supplements, even though there is some overlap between the two releases.

The supplements:

  • Commentaries for Part One and Part Two featuring film scholars Brian Stonehill and Charles Affron, respectively. They were recorded by the Criterion Collection in 1991 and 2000.

Special Features Blu-ray Disc (Disc Two):

  • Terry Gilliam Introduction (1.33:1; 00:05:14) – This Introduction by director Terry Gilliam was recorded by the Criterion Collection in London in April 1999.
  • Restoration Demonstration (1.37:1; 1080p/24; 00:04:16) – Before and after comparisons of the restoration.
  • U.S. Trailer (1.37:1)
  • Once Upon a Time: Children of Paradise (1.78:1; 00:51:15) – This 2009 documentary by Julie Bonan details the making of Children of Paradise and its impact on French cinema. It features interviews with the film scholars Edward Turk and Pascal Ory and director Bertrand Tavernier, as well as archival interviews with the film’s cast and crew.
  • The Look of Children of Paradise (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:22:12) – This visual essay by film writer Paul Ryan looks at the design of Children of Paradise and features sketches by screenwriter Jacques Prévert, production designer Alexandre Trauner, art director Léon Barsacq, and costume designer Mayo.
  • The Birth of Children of Paradise (1.33:1; 01:03:34) – In this 1967 documentary, German director Peter Gehrig travels with production designer Alexandre Trauner to Nice – home to Victorine Studios, where much of Children of Paradise was shot – and revisits the making of the film with key members of the cast and crew. Gehrig also discusses the movie’s influence on the New Wave with such directors as Louis Malle, Jacques Demy, and Agnès Varda.
  • Booklet: This particularly hefty booklet features an essay on the film by scholar Dudley Andrew and excerpts from a 1990 interview with Carné in addition to the usual film credits and information on the transfer.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Criterion Collection brings the miraculous Les enfants du paradis with its luxuriant sets, the quiet beauty of pantomime and pain of unrequited love to Blu-ray on North American shores, finally. The film is humanity played out before us with beatific resonance, charm, subtle grace, melancholy, pain, and all that goes along with living. Highly recommended, again.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Children of Paradise [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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