René Clair John Pym - Essay

John Pym

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The fragile but enduring beauty of Sous les Toits de Paris stems not so much from Lazare Meerson's gleaming designs, the virtuoso, scene-setting camera movements or the charming effervescence of its slight plot, as from Clair's tone: the gay urbanity with which his hero Albert, a man with a most precarious profession, accepts—with a mixture of regret and cheerfulness—the loss of Pola. Although Clair's escalating frivolity occasionally threatens to turn into self-indulgence …, the film's controlled and justly famous set-pieces remain as fresh, suffused with light and as gently amusing as they ever were…. Although Clair has been accused of an awkwardly mechanistic approach to comedy, too great a fondness for reversing tracking shots, for imposing a slightly barren symmetry on his films, it would be a dull person indeed who entirely failed to respond to the witty camera movement at the beginning of the film up and down the building in which Albert lodges: unoriginal though the device is, it still affords us the Chekovian feeling of passing a door, or in this case a series of windows, glimpsing human activity and gaining a momentary flash of other complete, if wholly fantastical lives. (pp. 247-48)

John Pym, "'Sous les toits de Paris'," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1977), Vol. 44, No. 526, November, 1977, pp. 247-48.