Marcel Carn symbolizes the period, approximately 1930-1945, when French cinema recaptured the creative vitality and prestige it had relinquished almost completely to the American film industry. The first critical biography of this director of classic films, including the epic historical romance Les Enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise), relates the saga of Carn 's meteoric rise in the 1930s and his decline from critical grace after the war.
Between 1937 and 1945 Carn directed a number of works that are now part of France's cultural patrimony, most notably Le Quai des Brumes (1938), LeJour se l ve (1939), Les Visiteurs du soir (1942), and the best known, Les Enfants du paradis (1945). The artistic merit of these films is widely acknowledged; their significance, however, is not solely aesthetic. To know Carn and his films is to know how cinematic art responded to social and political events -- to the period of French history that witnessed the Popular Front, the Front's demise, the fall of France, and the Occupation. Edward Baron Turk discloses the incongruities between the director's aesthetic of poetic realism and his professed leftist sympathies; he situates Carn 's questionable stance and activities during the Occupation within the broader context of an artist's ethical responsibilities in times of war; and he examines the ramifications of Carn 's censure during the postwar purges for the director's subsequent fortunes. Turk's use of the psychoanalytic concepts of androgyny, masochism, fetishism, and primal scene allows us to understand more clearly how Carn thought and worked. Turk also addresses the representations and maskings of homosexuality in Carn 's films and the extent to which they have colored film history's often ambivalent assessments of the director. The centerpiece of the book is an extended analysis of what is arguably the most famous and beloved of all French films, Les Enfants du paradis, scripted by the poet-screenwriter Jacques Pr vert.
The book draws on unpublished correspondence from, among others, Jean Cocteau, Fran ois Truffaut, and Simone Signoret, and on interviews by the author with Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Mme. Jacques Pr vert, Pierre Pr vert, Claude Renoir, Alexander Trauner, Truffaut, and Carn himself. This portrait of Carn thus becomes the portrait of an age, a great age in the history of French cinema, albeit a tragic age in the history of France.
About the Author
Turk Edward Baron: Edward Baron Turk teaches French language, literature, and film at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of Baroque Fiction-making, a book about the adventure novel in seventeenth-century France.