The Movie : Children of Paradise , at SIFF Film Center (305 Harrison>"/>
The Dinner: Phad Thai, at Phuket (517 Queen Anne Ave. N.).
The Screenplate: People do crazy things for love, for the love of theater, for the love of movies, and out of desperation to eat really fast before or after a play or film. All those factors come into play when discussing this new digital restoration of Marcel Carné's great 1945 backstage romance, Children of Paradise. It's a powerfully emotional love story (several of them, actually) with a peculiar provenance. Carné filmed it during World War II, in Nice--then occupied by the Italian Army. Though set in the Parisian theatrical world of the mid-19th century, Children of Paradise can be seen as an act of defiance against the Nazis, against war, and against the whole grim 20th century. It's a film about love and theater, both of which depend on illusion. For dinner, however, we prefer something more tangible on our plate ...
There's nothing particularly romantic about Phuket, and it occupies the middle zone in Lower Queen Anne's Thai food triangle between Racha and Tup Tim Thai. A quick dinner order of beer and Phad Thai barely breaks ten bucks, and the results aren't spectacular. But the food is healthy and fresh. And, more important, it's quick.
Unlike poor Carné, who labored for about two years on Children, always short on film stock and money, a diner at Phuket never has to worry about the ingredients being available. It's a pleasant place to sit, whether at the bar or staring out the windows at Queen Anne Avenue; and the TV screens are generally muted. You can duck in and duck out in a half hour (if you order immediately), which makes it one of LQA's preferred dining options during SIFF, which begins next week on all three screens at SIFF Cinema Uptown (plus several other theaters). Phuket is also just a short walk west of the SIFF Film Center (in the old Alki Room in Seattle Center); and there's a bus stop immediately outside the door. So add to its signal qualities convenience, too.
Children is neither quick nor convenient. Originally released in two parts, it runs about 160 minutes, and there's a lot of plot to cover. In brief: everyone's in love with actress Garance (played by actress Arletty); everyone's in love with the theater; and pretty much everyone ends up with their hearts broken. "Love is so simple," says Garance. Ha! Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert prove her wrong over several years and several men (four, if you're counting). The film is an essay, with many chapters, on love. Longing, flirtation, yearning, betrayal, consummation, remorse ... no one seems to be made enduringly happy through love, yet everyone seeks it. Men worship and lust after Garance, each of them in a kind of private misery when they can't have her. And even if they do have her, they still yearn after the ideal of her (or the unobtainable ideal of love).
And Phuket? Not so much yearning--everything on the menu is quite obtainable. It's not a place to love (or to take a special date), but sometimes you choose practicality over passion. Carné would not approve, but where are you going to find French cuisine in Lowe Queen Anne?