Sous les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris) (1930)
Critic Reviews for Sous les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris)
Practically nothing else of importance happens, and yet the director has managed to wind together a film that holds and never lags.
This picture becomes somewhat tedious after the first half. The introductory scenes, however, are highly satisfactory, particularly when M. Clair has a fancy for a little irony.
A slight but charming bittersweet romantic comedy set in the streets of Paris.
The story is largely inessential, however. What counts -- apart from the glimpse into a long-vanished world and the remarkable technique of the film -- is how surprisingly compelling the lives of these characters are.
Audience Reviews for Sous les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris)
Director Rene Clair peaked with "Le Million" and "A Nous la Liberte" in 1931, but the previous year's "Under the Roofs of Paris" was a solid step toward those twin glories. Unfortunately, the plot of "Paris" is trivial -- just a dull neighborhood tale of a street singer, his best friend and a crook competing for the same pretty girl. But the music is what's most hard to swallow. Anyone not sentimental for wheezing Parisian accordion will cringe through these moldy tunes. And the singer's money scheme -- leading curbside sing-alongs in the hopes of peddling sheet music -- is also horribly archaic. Really, "Under the Roofs of Paris" is only notable as filmmaking. It's obviously an early talkie and, in every scene, Clair aggressively wrestles with the new technology. The line between experimentation and mere frugality isn't so clear -- many scenes take convenient shortcuts, like when inaudible dialogue in a bar seems drowned out by nearby music. Except the music has been added to silent footage in post-production, only simulating a "live," diegetic soundtrack. Such quirks are common throughout the film. Clair was ambivalent about the arrival of sound, and he steadily tweaks the medium here. Other twists include a morning alarm that is turned off by touching a shoe, a scratched "William Tell Overture" record used as score and an important fight scene that is silent except for irrelevant train noises. The momentum tends to shut down when a rare conversation occurs. And the acoustics aren't right, due to primitive miking and shooting "outdoor" scenes inside a studio. "Under the Roofs of Paris" is one of those films that's revered more because it was ahead of the curve than because it was actually so great.
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