Under The Roofs Of Paris

441. UNDER THE ROOfS Of PARIS (1929-France). Directed by RENE CLAIR. One Of the first French sound films: an artistic milestone by the great Rene Clair. This delightful comedy-romance with music is as enjoyable, and as thoroughly French, as a glass Of wine served at an outdoor Parisian cafe. Set in the crowded tenement section Of Paris, it tells Of a street singer, his best friend, a gangster, and the provocative young woman they all love. This wisp Of a plot is merely an excuse for a poetic exploration Of Parisian life, and the film still stands as a definitive expression Of the French spirit. Clair views his characters’ follies lovÂinglyÑsometimes with gentle irony, but never with cynicism or contempt. Entirely within a studio, he brilÂliantly created the street singer’s colorful milieu: the shabby little garrets, the cobblestoned streets, the bistros, boudoirs, and jails. And, Of course, the roOftops, which seem to embrace the people within the comfortable boundaries Of a truly magical realm. Clair, a master Of visual expressiveness, approached the sound medium with great caution, believing that it could easily degenerate into lengthy, static conversations, Accordingly, he minimized dialogue; many actions are completely silent, and are filmed with all Of the movement, rhythm and visual variety that had distinguished the finest silent movies. Bui Clair wasn’t afraid to use sound, and he also performed many creative experiments, combining images, conversations and music in unusual ways. As the camera gracefully cranes and dollies along the roOftops, past windows, and through the streets, the lilting title song is performed by various characters, each person starting where the previous one left Off. Sometimes hear dialogue but do not see the speaker, as when a lovers’ quarrel (in bed, naturally) is recorded in complete darkness. On the other hand, dialogue at several crucial points isn’t even heard: it’s whispered, or obscured by windows, doors, or other obstacles. The climatic fistfight near railway tracks is cleverly intensified by the sudden loud whistle and roar Of a passing train. At these and other moments, Clair proved that the soundtrack could be as inventive as the picture, and he pointed the way for other filmmakers to follow. Witty, spontaÂneous, elegant and, above all, charming, this is one Of the lightest and most entertaining Of the important film classics, In French with English subtitles. 95 minutes. Drama