PARIS QUI DORT (1923) [Feature]

France (MIFF 1958 , Programme 48)
Director: René Clair

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 of the French screen. It tells the story of an inventor who discovers a ray which can make the whole world stand still. The only persons who escape its influence are a young nightwatchman at the top of the Eiffel tower, some plane travellers and the inventor's daughter. They wander through the city of Paris, where everything is in a state of suspended animation. When the effects of the ray are finally reversed, life continues as before, but with some surprising results.

Paris Qui Dort was made with little money and under difficulties. The choice of subject emphasizes Clair's return to early French sources, for Emile Cohl in 1907 had produced Monsieur Stop about a scientist who discovered how to arrest motion.

Throughout the film Clair continues to express his conviction that "the function of the cinema is to teach us to look." His wit and his best situations alike are wholly visual, though they may have emotional, even literary overtones. The film's delight in observations of human behaviour {note the two sandwichmen trying to pick up a banknote) betray's Clair's admiration for Chaplin.

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