Under the Roofs of Paris

It's weird how Criterion sometimes translates a title and sometimes doesn't, isn't it?

Under the Roofs of Paris, or Sous les toits de Paris, was Rene Clair's first sound film, released the year before our other two Clair's: Le Million and A nous la Liberte. Clair is full on just experimenting with sound and silence in this movie and it's brilliant. We've got scenes of action with no noise -- or a loud noise covering everything -- scenes of noise with no visible action, conversations that take place behind glass...as if Clair was forced to put sound into this film and his response was, "Oh yeah? I'll give you sound, alright" while rubbing his hands together. Beyond the technical marvel, it's a funny movie, though a bit light on plot as Pat is so quick to point out.

A Nous la Liberte

We're enjoying Rene Clair again, this time with his 1931 musical A Nous la Liberte. Like Le Million and, as we'll see next week, Under the Roofs of Paris, (and like Fritz Lang's M) Clair's early sound films are experimentation with the medium, playing with sound and silence, dialogue and ambient noise. It's a fascinating window into the mind of a creative person suddenly presented with new possibilities. It's also a brilliantly good film.

Le Million

In this week's episode we watch a French musical comedy and discuss the metaphorical value of Pat's underwear. Le Million (1931) is director Rene Clair's second sound film, a medium he at first regarded as "an unnatural creation" apparently believing that sound would do nothing but diminish the quality of story telling on the big screen, an opinion that I can not imagine anyone actually having ever.