In 1945 Marcel Carne looked around at the Nazi occupation of France and thought "Screw you, Nazis, I'm making a three hour long mime movie." And he did! Well, to distill Children of Paradise down to "a mime movie" really downplays what's going on here. It's the story of a love triangle -- er, pentagon or hexagon? -- between the greatest mime of a generation, the best actor in 19th century France, a master criminal who thinks he's a great writer, an aristocrat who we barely see, and some woman who's much less defined than the men but even in France there has to be a woman. Oh, and the guys are all based on historical figures and mostly the woman acts as a reason to talk about all of them at once. I'm really underselling this; let me start over.
In the first 30 seconds of Children of Paradise someone yells "Used clothes for sale!" and there's a monkey on stilts. It is the best movie.
We talk about it on this week's Lost in Criterion.