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Les Enfants du Paradis

Early French filmmaking at Starz.

More than a decade before post-war revolutionists such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and the other enfants terribles of the New Wave forever transformed French cinema, that country's film industry endured the peculiar trauma of German occupation. Between 1940 and 1944, the Nazis purged French moviemaking of Jews and Communists, but not all the French films created under German control were propaganda pieces or collaborationist hackwork. Some even contained subtle seeds of rebellion that escaped the Nazi censors. Witness the three-film, four-day retrospective on view next week at Starz FilmCenter, thanks to the Denver Film Society and the Alliance Française de Denver.

Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise, 1945) is sheer spectacle, Marcel Carne's three-hour masterpiece about a sensitive mime (Jean-Louis Barrault) in a nineteenth-century theatrical troupe whose unrequited love for a free-spirited beauty (Arletty) becomes a lifelong obsession, despite his worldly success. Jacques Prévert wrote the script. Le Corbeau (The Raven, 1943) is an early work by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who would later direct such classic thrillers as The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques. Slyly, Clouzot injects a tale of rising suspicion and anger in a French village with the kind of social and political content the Resistance might have cheered, but in some quarters it was interpreted as anti-French propaganda. La Nuit Fantastique (Fantastic Night, 1942) is an impressionist piece by Marcel L'Herbier in which a young philosophy student's fantasies about a mysterious woman morph into a heady confusion of dream and reality.

The schedule: Les Enfants at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 29, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, October 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, October 2; Le Corbeau at 7 p.m. Friday, September 30, 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday; La Nuit at 9 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Starz FilmCenter is in the Tivoli Student Union, 900 Auraria Parkway. For information, call 303-595-3456.

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