My 5 semesters of Film Theory & History have come in handy. How else would I have known of Marcel Carné, a prodigy who created dazzling, magical, original films of the French cinema from 1936-1945, including the Dadaist comedy-thriller Drôle de Drame (1937), the fatalistic melodrama Quai des Brumes (1938), the tragedy Le Jour se Lève (1939), Les Visiteurs du Soir (1942), & of course, his masterpiece, the magnificent epic Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)?
Carné's "poetic realism" consists of a meticulously recreated studio environment in which every element of lighting, decor, & design could be utilized to maximum expressivity.
Carné's last feature film, Le Merveilleuse Visite (1974), about a beautiful young man who turns out to be an angel visiting Earth, is an allegory of male beauty used as an indicator of innocence.
A man noted for his generosity & sensitivity, in his private life Carné tended to place personal relationships above political considerations: on the set of Children Of Paradise, there were artists who would later be tried for collaborating with the Nazis, as well as artists who were members of the Underground resistance & Jews in hiding who were given shelter.
In 1970s, Carné wrote that he wished the openness of the post-Stonewall era had been available to him earlier in his career. Although he regretted that he had not infused his work with a political consciousness, he believed that his partiality to themes of impossible romance derived from his acute awareness of the oppression of homosexuals.
He was an outspoken champion of filmmakers- Pasolini & Fassbinder, who politicized questions of gender and sexual orientation.
Although his career was uneven, Children of Paradise is indisputably one of the classics of French film making, was voted the greatest film in French history by a poll of French film critics in the year 2000.
Carné was 39 years old when he directed Les Enfants du Paradis, his 7th film. Over the next 30 years he made 10 more features, some of which starred his longtime partner Roland Lesaffre. He died in Paris, at age 90 in 1996.