Once upon a Time-French Cinema: Les Enfants du Paradis/Le Mepris (2010)

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Released 10-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 104:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Antoine de Gaudemar
Julie Bonan

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Shown on Australia’s SBS, Once Upon a Time . . . Les Enfants du Paradis & Le Mepris is two documentary films looking at the making of these two classic French films and the era in which each was created; the 1940s occupation of France by Nazi Germany, and the swinging 60s.

     Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) is a remarkable film that was made by director Marcel Carne and producer Jacques Prevert in 1943 and 1944 while France was under German occupation although the film was not exhibited until March 1945, after the liberation of Paris.

     Once Upon a Time . . . Les Enfants du Paradis, directed by Julie Bonan and narrated by Peter Leonard, is a fascinating documentary about the making of a French film under the German occupation, especially as the war turned against Germany from 1943 onwards, and the personalities behind it. All US films, and French films over four years old, had been banned by the French Vichy Government, giving the opportunity to create a new film industry. The documentary covers the on set privations caused by the war, censorship, the treatment of French Jews, the making of the film and the private lives of the participants, collaboration with the Nazis and the retribution meted out after the war (for example, lead actress Arletty had a liaison with a German Luftwaffe officer and was placed under house arrest after the war).

     Once Upon a Time . . . Les Enfants du Paradis features exerpts from the film (that look wonderful), black and white stills, current interviews with Edward Turk (Marcel Carne’s biographer), director Bertrand Tavernier, Gerard Fromanger (friend of Jacques Prevert), historian Pascal Ory, Jean-Roger Bontemps (set electrician for Les Enfants du Paradis) and Michel Souvais (biographer and secretary of Arletty) as well as archive interview footage with Marcel Carne (1975, 1989), Jacques Prevert (1974), Arletty (1969 – she still comes over as a determined and feisty customer) and Alexandre Trauner (set designer of Les Enfants du Paradis) (1993).

     Le Mepris (Contempt), was a meeting of the French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard (whose first film Breathless (1960) was both a critical and commercial success, unlike many of the New Wave films) with French screen icon Brigitte Bardot. The film also starred Jack Palance and legendary director Fritz Lang (as himself) and was released in 1963.

     Once Upon a Time . . . Le Mepris, directed by Antoine de Gaudemar and narrated by Peter Leonard, is in the form of an extended interview with Jean-Luc Godard as he watches the film. It includes film footage, black and white and colour stills, recent interviews with Michel Piccoli (actor), Alain Bergala (author), Charles Bitsch (assistant director of Le Mepris) and Jacques Rozier (the film director who made a black and white on set documentary, footage from which also is included in this documentary). There is also archival footage of Bardot, (1963), Godard (1963, 1965) and some fascinating footage of a 1967 discussion about filmmaking techniques between Godard and Fritz Lang.

     Once Upon a Time . . . Le Mepris does cover the making of Le Mepris, such as the casting of Bardot, the script, issues with paparazzi and the shooting of the Bardot nude scene required by the American financiers, but it is more than that and becomes a far reaching discussion by Godard about filmmaking, the French New Wave cinema, where cinema has gone since then and Le Mepris in the context of the youth counter-culture on the 1960s. Listening to such an important director is fascinating and not to be missed by those interested in film.

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Transfer Quality


     Both documentaries in Once Upon a Time . . . Les Enfants du Paradis & Le Mepris are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which looks to be the original ratio, and are 16x9 enhanced. Exerpts from the films are in 1.33:1 and 2.35:1 respectively, archival interview footage is in various ratios. Recent interview footage (2009) is pristine, but as expected the archival footage varies with some softness and minor artefacts, but is mostly good. Black and white stills and archive photos also vary, but are generally good, while the exerpts from Les Enfants du Paradis are wonderful with no artefacts and deep and vibrant blacks and whites. The exerpts from Le Mepris are also excellent with beautiful colours.

    There are yellow English subtitles for film exerpts, plus French speaking interviewees. They are in English English, courtesy of SBS, and contain no spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio for both documentaries is English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 224 Kbps. The narration is easy to understand at all times. There was some music in the surrounds but little activity. The sub-woofer was silent, but neither of these things is an issue; the audio for both documentaries is perfectly acceptable for TV features. These is some hiss in a couple of the archival interviews, mainly of Arletty (1969) but nothing serious. Otherwise there is no hiss or hum evident.

     As interview dialogue is recorded live lip synchronisation is not an issue.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I cannot find a listing of this package of documentaries elsewhere.


     Once Upon a Time . . . Les Enfants du Paradis & Le Mepris are two fascinating documentary films looking at the making of these two classic French films and the era in which each was created. A must for film buffs and lovers of French cinema, the extended interview with director Jean-Luc Godard is especially interesting.

     The video and audio are fine for TV documentaries that include archival footage.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, March 16, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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