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France, 1930 (MIFF 1954, Programme 5)

Director: René Clair

Following the First World War, the Impressionist: school and the "avant-garde" tried to break the French commercial producers from the routine adaptations which formed the bulk of their work. They had met with some success when the bombshell of sound rendered most of their equipment obsolete and their films inadequate. Rene Clair was already recognized as one of the foremost directors and he declared himself opposed to the new medium. This statement is not surprising from one whose art consisted of complete and precise visual presentation of a theme. His first use of sound in "Sous les Toits de Paris" is sparing and slightly mocking. Although he was aware that the sound film and the silent film obey different laws of composition he was still unfamiliar with them.

Despite his misgivings on the value of this innovation, Clair has made a film which is a direct and vivid evocation of the charm of Paris. Using a simple story he has recaptured with complete success the atmosphere of a Parisian suburb. His people-the concierges, the small shopkeepers, the children, the idlers and the street-singers - are portraits from life, lovingly and affectionately drawn by a master of cinema. He can build up a sequence of tenement detail into a picture of the while tenement, and by a skilful use of chorus set the mood of a cross-section of his characters.

“Sous les Toits” was greeted with great enthusiasm throughout the world of film. The international public responded to the appeal of a film which was purely national in character. its success provided the French directors with the impulse they had been seeking and pointed the way to the renaissance of the thirties.

See also...


This early Clair film was to be the entr'acte between the two parts of Rolf de Mare's Swedish ballet "Relache". Picabia intended it to be a procession of dreamlike cerebral images, divorced from the ... More »


In the last year we have been fortunate enough in Melbourne to see two of the three classic films made by Rene Clair in the early 30's. Sous le Toits de Paris and A Nous la Liberte. Now we have the ... More »


One of the first films made by Rene Clair, Paris Qui Dort gives a foretaste of that leaning to' fantasy which contributed so much to Clair's later work and made him one of the outstanding directors ... More »


Le Fantorne du Moulin Rouge was notable for the various uses Clair made of the cameras resources, sometimes “giving objects a three-dimensional effect by moving round them" (J. Bourgeois). The ... More »


It has taken eighteen years for this classic of the French screen to reach Melbourne film-goers. Widely admired and copied, it has influenced adventure film makers ever since its issue. Hollywood has ... More »


At the age of 42, Pierre is really living. A supervisor in a building firm, he is having an affaire with a 26-year-old secretary in the same firm. He is a spender, proud of his car, likes to dream ... More »

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