From Socialist Review, No. 170, December 1993.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Thanks for the review of Les Enfants du Paradis. It is a powerful evocation of resistance despite adversity in the Second World War and we can see the motivation behind Carné’s choice of 1840s Paris.
I was also pleased to read Gareth Jenkins’s refutation of the charges of collaboration levelled at Marcel Carné. At great risk Carné employed composer Joseph Kosma and designer Alexandre Trauner, who were both Jewish, to work clandestinely on the film using ‘fronts’.
My only problem with the review is the portrayal of the German censors as Hogan’s Heroes type goons who were incapable of picking up hidden meanings in the script. Whilst the fascist administration of the French film industry was certainly inconsistent, its primary motivation was to get bums on seats and increased receipts. This was only really successful when it used a French product, as audiences refused to watch unsubtle German propaganda films. The fascists also hoped the French film industry could compete against Hollywood, which they saw as ethically and morally degenerate. French films were intended to be an influential advertisement for the ‘New Europe’.
Les Enfants du Paradis did not make it past the Nazi censors. Annoyed at Carné’s unwillingness to work for their film company, Continental, they kept the film under wraps and it was not shown until 1946. However, many other films containing oppositional messages were shown. In all, 220 films were made in France during the Occupation and receipts rose by $84 million between 1938 and 1943.
Seen in this way, the German regime can be more accurately explained as the cold, calculating managers of capitalism they would like to have become. Over-confident that the French people had been irrevocably subdued, the censors were prepared to let some of the less overt messages pass for the sake of profit.
Last updated: 1 March 2017