Carné, Marcel


Carné, Marcel
born Aug. 18, 1906, Paris, France
died Oct. 31, 1996, Clamart

French film director.

He worked as an assistant director before directing his first feature, Jenny (1936). This success was followed by Bizarre, Bizarre (1937), Port of Shadows (1938), and Daybreak (1939), works of poetic realism that were the fruit of his collaboration with screenwriter Jacques Prévert. During the Nazi occupation he made The Devil's Envoys (1942) and later his masterpiece, The Children of Paradise (1945), which chronicled life in the theatre and celebrated the French spirit. His work declined after his breakup with Prévert in 1948.

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▪ 1997

      (ALBERT CRANCHE), French film director (b. Aug. 18, 1906, Paris, Fr.—d. Oct. 31, 1996, Clamart, near Paris), created—with screenwriter Jacques Prévert—a group of motion pictures that exemplified a golden age of French cinema. His Les Enfants du paradis (1945; Children of Paradise), filmed under dangerous circumstances during the German occupation and at the time the most expensive French film ever made, came to be regarded as a masterpiece of world cinema. Carné developed a love for motion pictures when he was a young child and became a film critic in his 20s. He also became an assistant to the director Jacques Feyder on such films as Les Nouveaux Messieurs (1928), Le Grand Jeu (1934), and La Kermesse héroïque (1935; Carnival in Flanders) and to the director René Clair on Sous les toits de Paris (1930). In 1929 Carné made his first film, the documentary Nogent, Eldorado du dimanche (Nogent, Sunday's Eldorado), and in 1936 he directed his first feature, Jenny. That film also marked the beginning of his collaboration with Prévert. The two created a number of works—among them, Quai des brumes (1938; Port of Shadows) and Le Jour se lève (1939; Daybreak)—that were characterized as "poetic realism," reflecting the fatalistic mood of the country as it drifted toward World War II. During the war Carné and Prévert also made the period melodrama Les Visiteurs du soir (1942; The Devil's Envoys). Their last real collaboration, Les Portes de la nuit (Gates of Night), took place in 1946. Of Carné's later works, Les Tricheurs (1958; The Cheaters) was the most successful. Carné was elected to membership in the French Academy in 1980, and in 1984 the Cannes Film Festival was dedicated to him.

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▪ French director
born Aug. 18, 1906, Paris, France
died Oct. 31, 1996, Clamart, near Paris

      motion-picture director noted for the poetic realism of his pessimistic dramas. He led the French cinema revival of the late 1930s.

      After holding various jobs, Carné joined the director Jacques Feyder as an assistant in 1928, and he also assisted René Clair on the popular comedy Sous les toits de Paris (1930; “Under the Roofs of Paris”). Carné's first picture was a short documentary, Nogent, Eldorado du dimanche (1929; Nogent, Sunday's Eldorado). Later the success of his film Jenny (1936) ensured his position as a leading director.

      The screenplay for Jenny was by the poet Jacques Prévert (Prévert, Jacques), who would write the scripts for all but one of Carné's finest films. Carné's next picture, the comic crime fantasy Drôle de drame (1937; Bizarre, Bizarre), had sets designed by Alexandre Trauner, and both he and the composer Joseph Kosma also became regular collaborators on Carné's films. Quai des brumes (1938; Port of Shadows) and Le Jour se lève (1939; Daybreak) established Carné as the preeminent director of the revival. In these films, whose fatalism was typical of the French cinema of the late 1930s, a pair of lovers find a few brief moments of happiness in a gloomy, mist-shrouded world of violence and hopelessness. The actor Jean Gabin (Gabin, Jean) became famous for his roles as the doomed hero in these films.

      During World War II, when it was impossible to deal effectively with contemporary subjects under the German occupation, Carné made two important period films. Les Visiteurs du soir (1942; The Devil's Envoys), a costume drama that combines spectacle with romantic passion, is photographed with the lyricism and flowing smoothness characteristic of all Carné's films. Les Enfants du paradis (1945; Children of Paradise), a fictionalized portrait of the mime Jean-Gaspard Deburau, paints a rich and powerfully evocative picture of 19th-century French theatrical society and is regarded as Carné's masterpiece.

      Carné continued to make films into the 1970s, but with declining popular success. Les Portes de la nuit (1946; Gates of Night), was his last collaboration with Prévert, and his subsequent films, such as Thérèse Raquin (1953) and Les Tricheurs (1958; The Cheaters), rarely approach the quality of his best work. He was gradually reduced to a peripheral figure on the French film scene owing to changing tastes and attitudes. The freedom and spontaneity of the New Wave cinema in the early 1960s made his own carefully scripted and rehearsed films seem cold and old-fashioned. Les Enfants du paradis, however, is still one of the most admired of all French motion pictures.

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Universalium. 2010.

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