ALBERT AND LOUIS AND FRED AND POLA
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 01/31/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Rene Clair's 1930 SOUS LES TOITS DE PARIS, a mostly-mimed musical, is about about two pals -- Albert and Louis -- who make a wager in the rain "under a Paris roof" (hence the title) to see who will go with pretty Pola. But alas she goes off with Fred! A series of complications way too complex to detail here ensue as the four characters mix and match until one is left alone singing in the rain on a Paris street. This film, made silent and then dubbed with French dialog and music, is done with grace and charm in spite its melodramatic plot. Albert's calm detachment seems to insulate him from all danger and sorrow, while Fred seems to get away with numerous nefarious deeds. I liked this film and its dreamlike images and poetic story."
Difficult to follow, but interesting.
D. M. Farmbrough | Wisconsin, USA | 10/31/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a film from the transitional period between silents and sound. The film was shot without sound, then later dubbed. The result is a movie that is predominantly visual and this assists greatly if you have bought the V.H.S. version, because the subtitles are all over the place. Some dialogue has no subtitles whatsoever, some has titles for part of a conversation, and (maddeningly!) other parts have a subtitle half or even a quarter visible at the bottom of the screen. This is not the fault of Rene Clair however, who presents us with some great images of the streets of Paris, its low-life, and a peek inside the rented rooms of the poor people. The sound too is pretty good when you consider its original format, and the pretty but simple music conveys Clair's own enthusiasm to the listener.
The plot is somewhat incidental, but difficult to follow since it seems two near-identical men dressed in almost the same clothes are rolling dice to see who gets a girl. They are thwarted by a tough Parisian thief who looks uncannily like Basil Fawlty! But this does not really matter, just look at the sights and sounds of 1920s Paris, lovingly recreated in the film studio and see why Clair went on to become such a successful Hollywood director."
Martin Doege | 11/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1930, movies with sound were still a relative novelty, and while American films of that era ("The Jazz Singer", etc.) mostly tried to outdo each other with being as loud and shrill as possible and the music was center stage, the French did a film that is tasteful and restrained in its use of sound, and sometimes even reverts back to silent film, perhaps only to remind us to savor the next time sound appears. Why am I not surprised?
I already knew the chanson that is also the main theme of the movie (and in fact one of the little jokes in the film involves panning around an apartment house only to find no one can get that ditty out of their heads, to the chagrin of some of the other tenants), so I was naturally interested to see if the movie it came from was any good. And it is. René Clair knows that his plot is banal, but then again so they are in most other movies, so this is an exercise in mood, camera movement and how the story is told. And his restraint is what makes the film seem fresh even today -- too many movies from the 1930s, whether they are American screwball comedies or French films like those of Jean Renoir have a tendency to go overboard, often in ways that make the movie somewhat painful to watch today for being so over-the-top, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The wisdom of Clair is turning a small, intimate story into a small, intimate movie. He is utterly unpretentious, something else modern filmmakers might take note of. The film is impressive because it does not try too hard to impress.
Perhaps the best way to sum this movie is to say this is is a picture which sound, which all the time extolls the virtue of silence. For example, in the dance hall, when the singer and his friend share a broken cigarette the dance music is basically noise (and makes conversation impossible). If the main technical innovation of a film you are making is sound, then pointing out all the time in your film how superfluous (and perhaps even annoying) it really is, how it really just stands in the way of things that are really important is certainly quite bold. There has probably never been a sound picture that has made a more convincing case that films (and perhaps even life itself) might be more enjoyable without sound!
Watching this definitely benefits from a feel for what Europe in the 1930s might have been like, particularly since the movie is relatively stylized and studio-bound. Other good films about life between Berlin and Paris at that time include Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and Carné's Port of Shadows - Criterion Collection."
An amazing French classic... beautiful filmmaking!
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 12/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A heartbreaking, beautiful portrait of urban life in the City of Love. This was director Rene Clair's first sound film, built around the concept of following a street musician through his daily life. Clair uses the occasion to play with the concept of sound recording: many dramatic scenes are played out silently, while an entire apartment building softly hums the catchy tune sung by chanteur Albert Prejean; in the film's climactic scene, a record on the stereo begins to skip as rival suitors quarrel over the Roumanian belle, Pola Illery. The sound design is as playful as it is inventive, and Clair's command of image and editing is superb. Fans of French "musette" music owe it to themselves to check out this film, which skillfully depicts the nightlife inside one of a Parisian bal mussette dancehall, populared as it was by seedy ruffians and disheartened lovers. A wonderful film; highly recommended."