160-161 A nous la liberté and Under the Roofs of Paris

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Martha
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160-161 A nous la liberté and Under the Roofs of Paris

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:15 pm

A nous la liberté

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One of the all-time comedy classics, René Clair's A nous la liberté tells the story of Louis, an escaped convict who becomes a wealthy industrialist. Unfortunately, his past returns (in the form of old jail pal Emile) to upset his carefully laid plans. Featuring lighthearted wit, tremendous visual innovation, and masterful manipulation of sound, A nous la liberté is both a potent indictment of mechanized modern society and an uproarious comic delight.

Disc Features

New digital transfer
Deleted scenes
Entr'acte (1924), the short Surrealist masterpiece by Clair and artist Francis Picabia
Video interview with Madame Bronja Clair
Film historian David Robinson on the Tobis lawsuit against Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times
New and improved English subtitle translation
Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

Criterionforum.org user rating averages



Under the Roofs of Paris

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In René Clair's irrepressibly romantic portrait of the crowded tenements of Paris, a street singer and a gangster vie for the love of a beautiful young woman. This witty exploration of love and human foibles, told primarily through song, captures the flamboyant atmosphere of the city with sophisticated visuals and groundbreaking use of the new technology of movie sound. An international sensation upon its release, Under the Roofs of Paris is an exhilarating celebration of filmmaking and one of France's most beloved cinematic exports.

Disc Features

New digital transfer
Clair's silent film Paris qui dort (1925)
A BBC-TV interview with Clair
Trailer
New and improved English subtitle translation
Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

Criterionforum.org user rating averages

Last edited by Martha on Sat Aug 06, 2005 1:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Donald Trampoline
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#2 Post by Donald Trampoline » Thu May 12, 2005 12:08 am

Discussion with Spoilers

I was very disappointed that the DVD of À Nous la Liberté presented a version that Clair had recut and meddled with in later life instead of the original version.

Don't you expect a company like Criterion to champion exactly the original version?!

Anyway, they included clips from a very poor print of the original version to show you what exactly had been excised from the film. At least they gave you that.

However, these were the exact scenes that I remember as being most significant in film classes, and one is even presented in a frame reproduction in Bordwell & Thompson's Film History: An Introduction as an important and representative part of the film.

The most important thing that was cut was when he's laying in the field and the flowers sing. This emphasizes his approach to life and his poetic heart -- or romantic heart. Also the flower has the shape of a phonograph horn, making a connection with the major thematic element of the film.

Without this flowers in the field scene, the scene when he first encounters the Girl is rendered almost stupefying since it is a direct reflection back to the earlier scene in the field. This time he thinks the flowers are singing again -- the flowers around her window. He is being mesmerized by them again. (But in the version presented in the DVD, we don't know that at all!) Then she comes to the window and he realizes it was her singing and he associates her with his nature-loving free-spirit ideal/idyll. The "rhyme" between the two scenes gave the film its poetic heart. Cutting that scene rips the heart out of the film.

I realize the state of the original version could be the reason they had to use the nice print of the recut later Clair version, but certainly we have seen many films that have been cobbled together from different print sources, and I'm sure a decent job could have been done to present the true (and wonderful) original film. And by the way, those directors meddling with their films years later-- so unpleasant. If they must do it, they really ought to preserve their original film and not try to sweep it under the rug like some do.

BWilson
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#3 Post by BWilson » Thu May 12, 2005 1:28 pm

Yes it seems Criterion could have used seemless branching to allow us the choice of seeing the film w/ or w/out the singing flowers scene.

On another note, I didn't like Roofs or Liberte that much at all. Neither is as good as the sublime perfection of LeMillion. But the discs of Roofs and Liberte both include shorts that I feel are better than the feature. Entre'acte is a surreal masterpiece and The Crazy Ray (or something like that) is absolutely amazing. Posibly my favorite short film. Of course it was cut down (from feature length I think) by Claire latter in life as well. Still, it works great as a short, and I like it a lot more than the feature.

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Donald Trampoline
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#4 Post by Donald Trampoline » Tue May 24, 2005 4:47 pm

BWilson wrote:Yes it seems Criterion could have used seemless branching to allow us the choice of seeing the film w/ or w/out the singing flowers scene.

On another note, I didn't like Roofs or Liberte that much at all. Neither is as good as the sublime perfection of LeMillion. But the discs of Roofs and Liberte both include shorts that I feel are better than the feature. Entre'acte is a surreal masterpiece and The Crazy Ray (or something like that) is absolutely amazing. Posibly my favorite short film. Of course it was cut down (from feature length I think) by Claire latter in life as well. Still, it works great as a short, and I like it a lot more than the feature.


Yeah, Entr'acte was thrilling. I really liked that. I say that Liberté in its correct unaltered form with flower scene intact is better than Le Million. I was also somewhat disappointed (although not that much) by Under the Roofs of Paris. It's been too long since I watched it so my memory's a little fuzzy on The Crazy Ray. I'll have to rent that again. But the shorts are very important inclusions on the discs.

Liberté to me in its original version is one of his best films, although I probably give it more weight having experienced it first in a film class during college during the formative years of my film-love.

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Godot
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#5 Post by Godot » Mon Jun 06, 2005 5:21 am

Donald wrote:The most important thing that was cut was when he's laying in the field and the flowers sing. This emphasizes his approach to life and his poetic heart -- or romantic heart. Also the flower has the shape of a phonograph horn, making a connection with the major thematic element of the film. Without this flowers in the field scene, the scene when he first encounters the Girl is rendered almost stupefying since it is a direct reflection back to the earlier scene in the field. This time he thinks the flowers are singing again -- the flowers around her window. He is being mesmerized by them again. (But in the version presented in the DVD, we don't know that at all!) Then she comes to the window and he realizes it was her singing and he associates her with his nature-loving free-spirit ideal/idyll. The "rhyme" between the two scenes gave the film its poetic heart.
Very interesting observations, Don, thanks for sharing them. I enjoyed A Nous la Liberte a great deal, but somehow missed this rather keen connection. My favorite scene was the assembly-line gag that Chaplin referenced, and I loved the social commentary on the crippling influence of money.

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#6 Post by javelin » Mon Jun 06, 2005 5:31 am

Godot wrote: I loved the social commentary on the crippling influence of money.
Is there any better extant image of rampant capitalism than middle-aged men chasing loose money in the middle of a courtyard? I think not.

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denti alligator
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#7 Post by denti alligator » Sat Nov 26, 2005 1:21 am

Under the Roofs of Paris is the 1950 version, too. The deleted prologue is included in a very bad print, which is probably why Criterion chose to leave it out. Maybe that was the case for the missing scene(s) in Liberte.

I'm curious about the original version of Paris qui dort (The Crazy Ray). How long was it originally and does an original version still exist somewhere?

And, by the way, I like Roofs significantly more than Liberte. Haven't seen Le Million yet. Looking forward to it. I also have Clair's 1928 film Un chapeau de paille d'Italie, which should be fun.

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cysiam
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#8 Post by cysiam » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:47 am

I have not seen any Clair and I want to rectify that. I'm trying to get more opinions on these. Which of these films should I check out first? Any specific advantages/disadvantages one has over the other? Should I just skip them and start with Le Million? Any feedback would be appreciated.

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Tommaso
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#9 Post by Tommaso » Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:23 am

Honestly, I can't see any specific advantages or disadvantages with any of those films, they are all completely wonderful. What Lubitsch did for the American film musical, or Thiele and Schwarz for the German film operetta, was done by Clair in France at the same time, and he surpassed the others in sheer inventiveness and charme in my view. Absolutely indispensable, if you ask me. The best extra of all these films is probably "Entr'acte", so perhaps start with "A nous la liberté", which also might be interesting as a blueprint for some scenes in Chaplin's "Modern Times". "Under the roofs of Paris",though, is the most 'classical' of all these films, and starting with this and then watching "Le Million" might be useful if you want to see the evolution and perfectioning of his style and especially his somewhat 'experimental' use of sound.

Shame on me, I haven't watched them for ages, but I remember vaguely that these discs are all cropped to 1.33 where they should be 1.19 (at least the first two films), but probably these are still the best editions of these films around.

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HerrSchreck
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#10 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:29 am

For that OAR reason alone I stick to gleaming broadcast tapes of both Million & Under The Roofs. Le Million is barrels of fun, but I need to give Roofie another try.

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justeleblanc
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#11 Post by justeleblanc » Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:14 pm

Roofs didn't do much for me either. Liberty and Million are both incredible, with Million also being pretty funny. I would start with Million then move onto Liberty, then end with Roofs.

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domino harvey
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#12 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 04, 2008 1:04 pm

I haven't seen Liberty but I loved Under and Million, both are just incredibly charming. the Crazy Ray short is pretty good too.

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Tommaso
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#13 Post by Tommaso » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:33 pm

"Crazy Ray" is brilliant indeed, but has about the worst cropping of all of the films. And it is even silent, so 1.33 should be correct. No idea what happened there.
"Under the Roofs" is perhaps more 'traditional' than the other two films, but it is also the most lyrical of them. One of the few films I've seen that actually fulfill the somewhat idealized image of 'poetic', 'old' France in film. I love it perhaps even more than "Enfants du Paradis", a comparison that comes to my mind because it creates a similar nostalgic enchantment for me, though time and story are completely different of course.

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tryavna
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#14 Post by tryavna » Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:59 pm

Million is probably the safest one to start with, since it's probably the most "mainstream," for lack of a better word. (And I think the various comments from previous posters supports this idea. Seems like opinions are split on the other two.) If Roofs doesn't grab you right away, however, do be sure to give it another chance. It didn't really click for me until my second viewing, but it's absolutely wonderful. It's also one of those films, like Jules and Jim, that really nails the overlapping and sometimes conflicted dynamics of romance and friendship.

If it matters to you, the extras are better for Roofs and Liberty than for Million.

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jbeall
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Re: 160-161 A nous la liberté and Under the Roofs of Paris

#15 Post by jbeall » Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:05 am

I had the chance to see Under the Roofs... recently and thought it was wonderful. As much as the overlapping dynamics of romance and friendship, it's also about the overlapping dynamics of sight and sound in cinema. Of course it's an early talkie, and in many ways it represents the last gasp of silent cinema against its younger sibling, as long stretches completely without dialogue (or even intertitles) tell a whirlwind of a story. Clair shows how to tell a story in almost completely visual terms and incorporates this as one of the major themes of the film--at least in the first half, the film is all about seeing, and the narratives we construct from purely visual information. This film is far too much fun for me to regard it as a polemic on the superiority of sight to sound or vice versa, but nevertheless I think he engages with important ideas about the nature of the medium.

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dad1153
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Re: 160-161 A nous la liberté and Under the Roofs of Paris

#16 Post by dad1153 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:03 pm

DVR'ed "À nous la liberté" from TCM-HD a few months back but just recently got around to watching it. This one owes more than a passing resemblance to early Chaplin (who himself would go on to 'borrow' from Clair a few ideas shown here) and also Fritz Lang's cinema (the film compositions of "Metropolis," the experimental use of sound in "M," etc.). "À nous la liberté" has the production values (this thing looks like the "Playtime" of its era), the heart, the social critique and the message (about the industrial revolution attempting AND FALING to repress human imperfections, like love, that make us who we are) down pat, but seldom delivers any actual laughs. Like Laurel & Hardy shorts sometimes the painful stuff that happens to Émile, Louis and Jeanne (Rolla France is such a cutie!) as their fortunes climb and fall with the opening of a phonograph factory (or pursuit by the immates) is too dour to make one laugh. You'll have to see Clair's "Le Million" (sweeter & gentler, better sound) and Chaplin's "Modern Times" (funnier, more visually striking) for refined displays of the grand concepts that Clair flirts with here (including a finale straight out of 'Benny Hill's' closing credits) but doesn't quite gel together into a satisfying whole. At least I had a fun time pretending the phonographs were iPads and that the movie was taking place in... wait for it... modern times! :)

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dustybooks
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Re: 160-161 A nous la liberté and Under the Roofs of Paris

#17 Post by dustybooks » Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:31 pm

I saw A nous la liberté yesterday and loved it; it's my first Clair feature and I'm now eager to see more. It's so jubilant and light but also so pointed in its subversive message, directly mirroring factories and prisons and suggesting that everyone just needs to dance and fish and let machines do all the work. The Modern Times comparisons are obvious but I wonder if I'm the only one who thought of The Killing during the climax with the money floating through the air. I agree with the above post that it isn't necessary a screamingly funny film per se but it still knocked me out with its wit. I'm disappointed that the Criterion disc seems to be cut, per the above, and now wish I'd had time to look at the deleted content on the library copy I checked out.

However, I did make time to sit down with the short Entr'acte and was so floored by it I watched it twice in a row. This is even stronger than the feature; I know this is old news for most of you reading this, as I specifically sought it out because of its high placement in the 1920s lists projects here, but it was one of the strongest and most rhythmic avant garde films I've seen. I realize that it probably isn't really "pure" surrealism because it starts to attain something resembling a plot later on, but its immense, nonstop feeling of inventiveness really sings out. It doesn't seem to have aged very much at all. I can't wait to see it again; it's my favorite new silent-era discovery I've made in a long time.
Last edited by dustybooks on Sat Dec 26, 2015 4:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Tommaso
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Re: 160-161 A nous la liberté and Under the Roofs of Paris

#18 Post by Tommaso » Mon Dec 14, 2015 8:15 pm

Definitely agree about "Entr'acte". It remains one of the most exuberant and hilarious of those surrealist silents, and I absolutely love Satie's original score for it (perhaps the best of his non-piano compositions, and not to mention his great appearance in the film itself!).

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