While shooting one of his last silent films, René Clair left the studio one day and saw a crowd gathered around an animated street singer. This simple scene struck Clair as something so typically Parisian that it became the basis for his first sound film
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René Clair's Under the Roofs of Paris is a delightful pastiche of vignettes loosely held together by a creaky plot involving theft, romance, and mistaken identity. Albert loves Pola, who is being romanced by a seedy thief. Albert ends up in jail instead of the thief and Pola falls for Albert's best friend, Louis. This film was Clair's first talkie and the first French musical. However, this isn't a musical in the Hollywood sense of the term. The characters do not break out in song every 10 minutes. Instead, we see action silently unfold to the pastoral orchestral music score. The film also features several imaginative tracking shots and an interesting glimpse into the post-World War I optimism that briefly reigned over Western Europe until the rise of National Socialism. --Kristian St. Clair
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