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L ’E sprit C réateur Edward Baron Turk. C hild of Par a d ise: M arcel C arné a n d the G olden A ge of F rench C in em a. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. Pp. x + 495. $37.50. For Americans, the name Marcel Carné may be synonymous with the popular cult of Les Enfants du paradis (1945). For the Italians, Carné may evoke the inspiration for the Neo-realist Movement by way of Le Quai des brumes (1938). For the French, however, the director’s name may conjure up a series of very diverse and complex reactions. On one hand, these would reflect the director’s brilliant contributions to the Golden Age of French Cinema of the Thirties and early Forties, notably the above two films as well as Drôle de drame and Le Jour se lève. On the other, part of his wartime reputation could never be buried, as a sexual outlaw, promoter of France’s defeat, and collaborationist pawn. The latter images of Carné have often tainted his true worth to French cinema. In a career that produced 22 films over half a century, Carné at different times experienced both veneration and evisceration for his opus that began and ended with documentaries—a shortwork entitled Nogent (1929) and the visual splendor of La Bible (1977). Recent revivals and awards both national and international have indicated that the elderly Carné has not been forgotten, but it is his production prior to the close of WW II that is normally saluted. For Simone Signoret, he was the “ Emperor” of France’s Golden Age of cinema. In the earlier stages of his film career, before he fell from grace, this reputa­ tion was launched with the assistance of the poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert who scripted most of his celebrated films. Their relationship during production may be con­ sidered symbiotic and their methodology dialectic. The combination of Prévert’s optimistic iconoclasm and Carné’s grim fatalism yielded some of France’s most powerful and emo­ tional cinematic dramas which may be best appreciated as models of poetic realism. This would certainly be the case for Le Jour se lève which Professor Turk considers the most “ Carnésian” of his works. From the dialectic encounter of these two social melodramatists —the “ poet of the sun” (Prévert) and the “ tragedian of darkness” (Carné)—is born the early series of cosmic landscapes of the soul. During the very fruitful years of the Carné-Prévert rapport, Turkobserves, certain pat­ terns in the films emerge which usually focus on the childlike, feminine, and androgynous. Following their temporary but significant split in the wake of the negative reviews of Les Portes de la nuit (1946), however, Carné began to move in another direction wherein he celebrated the male corpus. At the apex and apparent turning point of Carné’s checkered career, Turk places Les Enfants du paradis completed near the end of the war. He dedicates three full chapters to the design and thematic structure of the film which nostalgically recalls the golden years of France’s “ théâtre du boulevard.” It is this film that has garnered Carné the most laurels, for indeed it celebrates not only the theatre, but also the human and passionate drive to create. For many critics who still place this film on all of the lists of France’s best films in its history of cinema, had Carné only made this one film, it alone would have made him a major director. The vital power and beauty of Turk’s unique study of Carné’s complex evolution rest on the author’s balanced, realistic, and objective vision he has of the filmmaker. His multi­ layered text possesses a quality that rightly addresses the political (Popular Front/Occupa­ tion), the psychological (primal scene in Enfants), the critical (Bazin/Truffaut reactions) and the aesthetic (Dutch masters), as each touches upon the life and work of Carné. It is both rare and refreshing to discover a critical analysis of a director’s production which does not either glamorously deify or monstrously slander the individual. J oh n J. M...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 106
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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