Paris qui dort (1925)

The Criterion disc for Sous les toits de Paris handily includes Clair’s first short film (apparently shot in 1923 but not released until February 1925) as a bonus feature, and I liked it rather better than the main feature, I think. This was Clair’s “director’s cut”, as established by him in the 1950s, though I read conflicting accounts of it, that it was shortened from an hour-long version or that the longer version was actually expanded from the shorter one (and that’s without considering the original American release that was only 19 minutes long). Whatever, 35 minutes of this seemed about right. It’s a sort of SF comedy, in which the night-watchman at the top of the Eiffel Tower wakes to find the whole of Paris at a literal standstill; the only people awake are him and a handful of tourists who land in a biplane. Initially this situation amuses them but they tire of it quickly, whereupon they discover the cause of the inactivity, namely an experiment by a mad scientist. Not a film about which an awful lot needs to be said, so I won’t say much more, but I’m glad I waited until getting this DVD before trying to watch it (the files at the Internet Archive are too poor quality to bother with); kind of absurd but amiable, and far less absurd than this ludicrous over-reading of it…

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