Set in France in the 1820's, Children of Paradise tells an epic, and timeless tale (on and off screen) about one woman, and the four very different men, who loved her. Filmed and produced over a period of 2 years (1943-1945) there is just as much to talk about off screen, as there is on screen when it comes to Children of Paradise. Hailed by many as one of the best French films of all time, it would be hard for one to argue. Its influences can still be seen to this day as well as throughout the history of film as we know it.
Children of Paradise is told in two parts, split on two dual layered DVDs. When originally produced, the 2+ hour running time was too long, of course the film was a huge success, and played for 45+ weeks consecutively, they were able to sell tickets for double the normal price and show both parts back to back.
Many aspects of their surroundings during production marred Children of Paradise, as it was shot during World War II. Whether it was budgetary, staff, supply, or scenic problems. It's quite miraculous to think about it. The production managed to endure many hardships. Along the way the producers were able to create one of the greatest masterpieces of world cinema.
Criterion has done this film incredible justice by restoring it from square one. There is a note about the restoration process saying that due to some damage there may be differences in grain texture, etc. It goes on to explain the process the film went through to be cleaned of dirt, speckles and film grain from the source material. Criterion needs to make no apologies because one could never have expected this film to look or sound this good. The newly translated removable subtitles are outstanding as well. The mono sound is incredibly clear and sharp with no distortion whatsoever. This presentation of Children of Paradise is nothing short of astounding.
Extras include two audio commentaries, one with film scholar Brian Stonehill and one with Charles Affron. The commentaries are a nice companion to the feature itself, as is the 26-page booklet included in the package. The booklet contains excerpts from a 1990 interview with Marcel Carne, cast biographies, and an essay by film historian Peter Cowie. This 26 page booklet is a must read, and makes the package all the more sweet. Other extras include a video introduction by Terry Gilliam, restoration footage, production designs, filmographies, and a trailer.
True fans of world cinema need to pick up this DVD. As a matter of fact, fans of classic cinema in general need to grab this DVD. It's a must for any serious film collector. Criterion has done an outstanding job with this title, and I'm glad to have this important and extremely entertaining film in my collection.