René Clair Alexander Bakshy - Essay

Alexander Bakshy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[René Clair] enjoys the combined benefits of talent and good fortune. He has produced ["Sous les Toits de Paris,"] a picture that in many ways is a little masterpiece, and he has been lucky enough to be the first artist in a field that has been dominated by Hollywood robots. Indeed, so great is one's relief and delight at seeing a fresh mind, unencumbered with hollow conventions and equipped with taste, subtle wit, and imaginative insight, apply itself to fashioning a work of art that the shortcomings of the picture inevitably recede into the background. There I shall leave them for the moment, to stress the more important fact—the fascination and charm of René Clair's offspring.

The quality of the picture is revealed almost from its opening scenes…. The length of the [opening] song, the dulness of the music, and the solemnity of the singing would have been enough to condemn this scene for any Hollywood talkie. But here comes the miracle of art. By introducing a slight action, so slight that it is almost entirely confined to an exchange of glances between the peddler and a prowling pickpocket, the artist sets off the vital force. Instantly the characters become intensely alive, the singing acquires the quality of suspense, and the whole scene begins to sparkle with humor and to throb with the pulse of human life. By vivifying touches such as this, one scene after another is transformed into a palpitating reality…. [This]...

(The entire section is 440 words.)