Andrea Mariani | Cinema
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Irene Signorelli on Breathless (1960)


“A bout de souffle” – “Breathless” – fulfils the promise contained inside its title.

The whole movie is meant for leaving the spectator astonished by the magnetic relationship between the two main protagonists, as well their immorality. The “dégueulasse” (i.e. awfulness) of the characters, living such romantic and deplorable love story, leave the spectator confused and uncomfortable at the sight. The main achievement of the movie indeed, is to attract us inside the story, building a special bound with the viewer, but at the same time it directly clashes against any social convention and values we grew up with, leading us inside a trap were we cannot exit.



The movie, screened for the first time in 1959, comes from a blurred and not- sentiment of rebellion and disrespect of what was the French cinema of the time.

Indeed, the whole system in which French movies were produced was completely hostile to innovation and creative freedom, as they would represent a risk for the commercial value of the product.

Jean Luc Godard, the director, through his masterpiece aimed to rewrite the rules of the cinema as well its values.




Michel, the male protagonist of the movie, occupies the very first sequences of the movie.

He is immediately presented as a gangster, always with a cigarette on the brink of his lips ready to fall down at any moment but still kept glued to Michelle’s lips by an unknown force. As his cigarettes, Michel is pushed by the flow of the events toward more and more faltering position, managing somehow to elude the peril until the very end of the movie. he only thing he seems to care about is Patricia, a twenty years old American girl, libertine and naïve at the same time.

Throughout the movie he is constantly living of violent and criminal expedients, lying even to Patricia for covering his real economic means.

However, this figure of dangerous and muscled gangster, that pay a tribute to the Hollywood tradition, is not without paradoxical connotations. Michel’s profound love for Patricia adds a sweet-biter shades to the overall psychology of the character.

Patricia, at the same time, embraces the main vogue of the time who were redefining the space and the role of women inside a clear misogynist society: she wears the typical hair-cut “a la garçonne” for modern girls, she doesn’t wear bra and moreover she is determined to “resolve” the little issue growing in her venter. Her naivety mixed with pure selfishness encroaches toward a ruthless cynicism, creating a character that we both admire and hate at the same time.

But if the rebel and anti-social psychological attitude of the protagonist are meant to shock and scandalize the audience, the magnetic relationship they share divert our moral judgement from their misbehaviour.

Even if expressed in totally different and, at the very end, conflicting way, the love they prove for each other demands our admiration.



Looking at the larger contest of dissociation of the movie to any previous cinematic norm we can draw an important parallelism.

As the anti-conformism and immorality of the main characters is overshadowed by the incredible strength of their love, at the same time, the apology of the rebellion against French cinematic tradition expressed by Godard inside this movie, even if disrespectful and hasty, will lead by default to a humble and pure act of love for the artistic purpose of cinema


Nemanja Milosevic on Breathless (1960)

The fast paced, 90 minutes long, black and white movie Breathless (À bout de souffle), features the escapades of its protagonist Michel, but most of all is a quintessential representation of the New Wave, the French movement in cinema. Besides Michel, we are introduced to Patricia, a young American journalist, trying to succeed in Paris.

This fast paced crime drama is based on the two components of the plot, first the criminal activities of Michel, that consist of stealing cars and murdering one policeman, and the other being his obsession with Patricia. The majority of film we witness just that, him stealing cars and his interaction with Patricia, who is not so sure about her own feelings toward her French lover. Patricia is confronted by the detective who is working on the case of the murdered policeman and blackmails Patricia with her alien status in France that would be in danger should she not reveal whereabouts of her lover.

Patricia is confronted morally, but decides to betray Michel and calls the police giving them information about him. The movie ends with Michel trying to escape, running down the street and being shot from the back. The very last shot we see is Patricia’s face while she is looking at him, sliding her nail across her lips.



As mentioned before, Breathless is the emblem of the French cinematic movement called New Wave. The movement was considered by its members not as something organized and institutionalized, but just a large group of directors creating quality films. The decline of mainstream French cinema after the World War 2, mostly caused by administrative and regulatory reasons, provoked several members of Cinemathequeto foster the future growth of the new direction, represented by movies made by Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, Jacques Doniol Valcroze and Claude Chabrol.

One of the main points of the movement was the reconstruction of the film language, previously misused and proved to be a dangerous tool (especially during the World War 2). Cinema developed, in the course of previous decades, a set of conventions and grammar that aimed at making the spectator unaware of the mere experience of watching the moving images. That means that the main goal was to make a spectator feel like the movie is part of the reality, that the chain of events happening on screen is not part of the medium they are watching, something prerecorded, but reality taking place right there, in front of our eyes. This led to strong emotions from people who were not able to process the movie properly as fiction.  This type of moviemaking resulted in a certain amount of power that directors and producers have to use the medium in manipulative ways, in order to achieve certain ideological or political goal.



Like in the time that led to Breathlessand New Wave, today we face a very big divide between commercial and more independent cinema. In the city where I live this divide is most visible in the way movie theaters work. There are shopping mall based high-end cinemas that are usually more expensive and have a whole industry of on-the-side entertainment to it, like 3D, food court, collection of points, etc. On the other hand, small cinema and cultural centers downtown Belgrade offer a variety of European and less known movies that are not meant to be seen in 3D and do not include any of side entertainment. These independent cinemas do not show trailers before movies or try to lure audience with commercials, and projections start right on time.

The divide is therefore greater, since the identity of the place that shows movies corresponds with the offer, so you will not be able to go to high-end commercial cinema for a movie that’s not from a major production company from the USA.

Another very important aspect of it is the loss in creativity that this causes. The innovation is lacking from contemporary commercial cinema, in a way in which most movies can be seen as having some kind of a mutual formula. This kind of a universal formula that fits many different movies can be, in a way, applied on many contemporary films as well.

The current trend of movies based on the conflict between good and evil (like superhero movies), that again follows the same structure or formula, goes even further, as it uses the visual effects to compensate for the lack of boldness and originality. Also, the infamous superhero genre may use identity politics to acquire certain kind of prestige that may not be usually attributed to this genre, like “Wonder Woman” or “Black Panther”, that were almost universally critically acclaimed, with the score of more than 90% on Rotten Tomatoes (a website that measures the amount of favorable critiques from professional movie critics), but still, does not go far away from the limitations of the superhero genre.

This kind of a trend I see as a result of a highly capitalistic way of producing movies. The big production companies have stablished a certain market with their target group that is pretty loyal (loyalty is built by having a brand, like Marvel) and there is a certain set of elements of the plot that usually bring profit, so introducing new elements, changing the existing ones and going “off script” would be a big risk for a profit that is already guaranteed. That is how a big capital is held within a certain niche, without overcoming its limits in the highly competitive market.



Why did I talk about it this while discussing the movie Breathless? Because the movie aimed at provoking the established power structure within cinema, dealt with the history of a medium in a way where self-reflection and meta reference was a crucial element to deconstruct the “seductiveness” of the film, show and educate the audience on how the medium works and what techniques does it use to seduce. We now, in the contemporary world, have a situation where conformity plays a very important role, and everything that is not part of it is being marginalized. We almost have one powerful center with a lot of resources, that is doing everything it can to preserve the position of power, and the periphery with less resources that caters to the niche audience, usually in small downtown cinemas. The way New Wave dealt with movie conventions that were meant to mask the fact that we are watching a movie and tried to expose it in a original way is what I appreciate about it, as someone who watches movies in 2018 and sees a lot of similarities to the crisis. Breathlessis a non-commercial movie that left a really big mark in the history of the movie by being bold and rebellious towards itself, it is an example of anti-capital oriented, non-crowd-pleasing piece that ended being a widely recognizable title even half a century later. 



Auliannisa Hermawan on Breathless (1960)

It is not material or plot that makes the film special but how the material is treated or in other words it is not the content that is the most important but emphasizes on how to package its contents. In Breathless, Godard uses a simple criminal theme by shooting on streets, cafes and apartments in Paris. Godard only uses whatever lighting found on the set. He also sometimes allows his players to improvise with his dialogue. Every day, Godard would go to the streets, then write a brief summary of the scene he wanted. Godard gave the script to the actors and asked them to improvise as they pleased. Godard just had to record it and arrange it into a long film.


This kind of production style made Godard’s films very cheap, with such cheap production costs, Godard can submit a proposal to a producer to finance his film. Finally, Godard used his distinctive editing style, jump cut to make Breathless a very unique film and became a material for discussion of cinema observers everywhere. Breathless is actually Godard’s development of Francois Truffaut’s story ideas. Unexpectedly, Godard’s improvisation actually produced a two-hour film. At that time in France, to be considered as a commercial product, films could not be longer than 90 minutes. Instead of cutting one scene or sequence in full, Godard chose to streamline the film’s scenes.


Parts that are considered boring or not important are immediately cut. The scenes that are considered important are compressed to the point where the scene of people crossing the road will only show people on one side of the road then suddenly appear on the other side of the road. As a consequence, Breathless looks very tight and dense, there is no pause for the audience to ‘breathe’.


Minimal budget that makes Breathless special. Godard really must be creative in his film production so as not to exceed the funds set. The camera used is a handheld camera with black and white celluloid. Technical limitations such as the absence of dolly which is rails to move the camera, are tricked by placing the camera in the trolleys to create the same effect. Filming was done outdoors to, again, reduce costs. He used long shot, group shot, high angle, eye level angle, and low angle.



Michel’s character is described as being reckless and careless without being able to overcome the problems posed by his actions. Michel did everything he did other than because he was poor, he also did what he did because he was inspired by a film player who played in gangster films. Michael’s costume which consist of a suit, shirt, tie, glasses and hat shows that he is an obsessed criminal because his glasses and hat help him to disguise himself. It also showed that he is from the middle class. He was also seen as a criminal, seen from him stealing, and killing police.

Marry Tran on Sous Les Toits de Paris (1930)

Sous les toits de Parisis a notable film in its relatively conservative and rather particular usage of sound, and in its romantic representation of Parisian life. Released in 1930, the film came two years after the introduction of sound into cinema. As such, it lies in an almost awkward position as an attempt to preserve the nature of silent cinema while incorporating some sound elements to enhance the power of the film, to appeal to a people familiar with theatrical aspects, and to demonstrate the possibilities available with the use of sound.


There are three main types of sounds utilized in the film: 1) spoken lines 2) object sounds 3) music.  Each form served specific purposes in strengthening the film’s power, despite the presence of music being the most prominent. It seemed that in maintaining the role of music in the film, Rene Clair was paying homage to the silent film industry.

Sound in this film was also used as a means of interrupting the audiovisual experience of the audience, bringing attention to a certain aspect. There were rather specific moments when the sound of an object would intercept and dominate the viewers’ auditory perceptions over music that was characteristic of silent cinema.


The sound of the clock striking midnight when Albert walks Pola in the streets, the ringing of the doorbell when Pola is locked out of her room, and the clock striking once more to demonstrate the time spent going back to Albert’s are all examples of the combination of an audiovisual experience that have been cleverly integrated into the narrative.

Other sound clips were used ironically as an overlay and play on the use of sound in cinema. The iconic fight scene in the movie was complimented by sounds of a passing train which was then interrupted by the sound of a bullet hitting a lamppost. This clever use of asynchronization proved the possibilities of sound in cinema.


The playful manipulation of sound can also be seen in the scene of Louis and Albert’s fight for Pola. At the climax of the fight, the music on the record seemed to be stuck, constantly repeating the same part over and over again. However, it seemed as if the record was still playing normally on the phonograph. This served as a statement on sound cinema and while providing a lighthearted atmosphere in the midst of a heavy scene.



Despite the unsynchronized usage of sound and limited speaking lines in the film, the songs in Under the Roofs of Paris assisted in supporting the idea of a romanticized Paris It seems that starting from the rooftops, Sous les toits de Parisaimed to display a glimpse of a romanticized reality – a bit of Paris in its industrial sector, to show that despite the roofs being full of industrial chimneys and smoke, THIS was as Paris as any other part of the city. From the simplicity and comedic elements of the plot, to its windows and rooftops, Sous les toits de Parisis one of possibly many romantic representations of Paris at the time. The particular choices made in the extent and means through which sound was used shows a respect to its silent predecessors but also makes a statement on the incorporation of sound in future cinema.

Irene Signorelli on Sous Les Toits de Paris (1930) – Between theatre and cinema

This passionate and troubled love story between a poor street singer and a naïve Romanian girl take place on the streets of Paris and inside its numerous caffées where young couples used to go for dancing and drinking. “Sous le toits de Paris” by René Clair, is an accurate depiction of the vibrant and melancholic atmosphere permeating Paris during the30’s.

Even if the movie is one of the first to use the new technology of the synchronized sound, the style and the plot can be inscribed into the way more ancient theatrical tradition of comedy.

The revival of the stage tradition inside the cinema had been adopted by French filmmaker for addressing the American cinema monopoly, that was aggressively eroding the share of French movies screened and produced.

One of the main strategies to set back American film industry monopoly that led French cinema to develop a very specific style, was the deployment of national and regional theatre traditions inside the cinema, translating and transposing folkloristic tales, stereotypes and regional cultural peculiarities inside their works (Andrew

The poplar stage tradition is a remarkable component of “Sous le toits de Paris”.

The film is embodied of popular theatrical features that are fully deployed with the precise intent of amuse the audience, arouse laughs and fun among the public.

We can sum up these features in three main ways meant to entertain the public and give to the movie the clear cut of the comedy.

Here are proposed frames of the movie meant to visually explain the deployment of these stage features:


Construction of stereotyped characters, which actions corresponds faithfully to the common and popular representation of its figure.

Pic 1

Pic 2

For example, Pola is depicted as the naïve girl, always in the arms of a different man (pic. 1-2).

Pic 3

Her naivety became a source of drollery inside the movie, like after her scandalized reaction to Albert attempt to kiss her while she is his bed (pic. 3)


Creation of absurd situations, where the characters are pushed to clash against each other without following common reasoning or logic, for the mere purpose of intentionally entertain the public.

Here the sense of the lost – stolen money were both pretenders where claiming to have found Pola’s money.



Manipulation of the different sound tracks that follow the development of the story in order to stress particular comic scenes or sequences, conveying the idea of musical comedy.

Here a frame of the final sequence when Albert and his friend suddenly start to fight for Pola with the gramophone playing a cavalry melody as soundtrack. For stressing even more stressing the hilarity of the scene an unware spectator looks to his glass of wine as he can’t believe to his own eyes.



Maher Al Hariri on Sous Les Toits de Paris (1930)

Sous les toits de Paris begins and ends with the same subject, only with opposite movements. That subject is as the film’s title suggests, the roof tops and chimneys of Paris. The film begins with an establishing shot getting closer towards the roof tops, and zooming into the city’s streets, while it ended with a zoom out of the streets, all the way back to the roof tops and smoky chimneys. This creates the effect of visiting and departing from a tale. A tale is the best description possible to the film’s story, because at least to me, the word tale emphasises the story aspect, in this case devoid from any moral behind it.


On a technical level, the film has exhibited a mixture of camera movements and techniques, some of which were already in use previously and featured in films like Cabiria, and Atlantide, whilst others were actually new. A featured example of the old techniques is when Albert and Pola are on their way to Albert’s apartment, where in one scene they walk towards the right of the screen, followed by a scene where they move towards the left side, then a walk towards the camera, and away from it, in a play with movement to create the impression of length in time and distance. In addition, shots from skewed angles, and close ups are still deployed, only with a significant increase in the use of close up shots than in the past. On the other hand, in Sous les toits de Paris, the camera begins to become more mobile, which brings about new movements such as what appears to be a shot taken with the use of a crane, where the camera moves steadily, and without shaking upwards and downwards a building, showing what is going on, on every storey of that building. Another unprecedented technique is an over-head shot taken downwards, showing an eagle view so to speak, of the disco’s interior with people dancing. A third new technique is focusing a frame on an object, whilst keeping the background out of focus.



Another remarkable aspect in the film was the director’s focus on feet, where they were featured in close ups several times. However, a particularly interesting feature was of Pola’s feet. In the scene where she spends the night at Albert’s, she is shown taking off her leggings, in a slow motion, in a context of sexual tension at least on Albert’s side. In a following shot, and as she was growing weary of Albert’s continuous sexual harassments, she is shown to put them on, in an effort to leave, although that never happens. This raises the question, is this part of a director’s fetish, or was it a mean to hint to nudity and sex, in a context that predated the sexual revolution, and was more conservative regarding sex, especially in film?!

Sayumi Kometani on Sous Les Toits de Paris (1930)



In this blog post, I would like to discuss the importance of the film: Under the Roofs of Parisespecially in the expressions of realism in the film and its use of new technology.

Under the Roofs of Parisis a French movie that were shot in 1930 in France. The genre of the film is categorized as the standard entertainment genre which most of the time aim to display every-day exercise of talent and tradition according to a researcher Andrew Dudley.



Around this era, realism was the one of the main ideas reflected on French films. It was popular to depict a story of every-day lives of ‘normal’ people. Under the Roofs of Parisis also one of them. Many French films inclined toward casting normal citizens to play characters in the films in order to express the everyday happenings more accurately rather than politicians or heroes while primarily one of the means of star actors were to address current social issues indirectly. To maximize the realism countenance and let the audience enjoy the peculiar relationship between the characters, the plot, dialogue, and decor were designed to prepare for those moments when the actor could play himself.



One of the impressive points in the film was a song. As reported by Dudley, there was a tendency that French public demanded more familiar songs, singers and routines. In this film, one of the most explicit examples which you can find is the song sang by the main character Albert and other characters. There was one particular song kept being sang by the characters and played in a lot of scenes. It appears that the story of the film always involve around this song. Because of the intention of the movie was to express the every-day life of French people back in the day, it seemed like that the song itself and the action itself of how people always sing together at a square were speaking to the spectators.



The technical use of the body language in the film was also one of the most interesting parts of the film. Despite the fact that there were not so many lines of the characters, the body language of the characters was not very expressive. On the other hand, the first film we watched for the blog post: Cabiria, it seemed that the expressions of the characters by their body language were quite emphasized. In terms of slowness of the films, personally I thought that they were similar. In my opinion, one of the reasons why this approach was used is due to the topic of the film. As I mentioned before since the plot is about people’s every-day life, there was not so much confusion and it is also easy to follow the story without much of characters speaking their parts. Unlike other films with not many lines of the characters, the limitation of the lines and no description line between different scenes, the movie succeeded in conceiving its story to the spectators.


Nemanja Milosevic on Le Quai des brumes (1938)

Set in the small city of Le Havre, the movie “Port of Shadows” tells us the story of misfortunate destinies of several strangers whose paths intertwine in the small port town in France. This tale spread throughout just a couple of days follows a soldiers who deserted and tries to escape to Venezuela from Le Havre, and his encounters with different people in the attempt to do so.

His plan is interrupted when he starts an affair with young Nelly, who is already involved in the disappearance of her former lover and is being the object of obsession of Lucien, a local criminal. Another important character is Zabel, her godfather, who is in love with Nelly and is ready to do anything to keep her away from other men. For that very reason he kills Marcel, Nelly’s former lover, and frames Jean. The movie ends up tragically for Zabel, who is murdered by Jean, and Jean who is murdered by Lucien in the very last scene of the movie.


The movie is marked by a very pessimistic setting, besides the movie being set in a port that is often foggy (hence the title Le Quai des brumes, “Port of Fog” in literal translation), we encounter many characters with sinister traits who have a lot of power to achieve their goal, that most of the times means keeping Jean and Nelly separated. Fog plays an integral part in the movie, it happens very often that we just see silhouettes, rather than clear depiction of people, and uncertainty is generally present in the movie.

Dialogues and scenes with only Jean and Nelly in it are notably most “poetic ones”, they are usually marked by a very poetic exchange of ideas and affectious expressions between them (contrary to how people usually speak) and are followed by a close-up of their faces, that convey emotions of affection and lament. This can be interpreted as the characteristic of the Poetic Realism, the movement in French cinema of the 1930’s that the movie “Port of Shadows” belongs to. The movement is marked by the tendency to showcase characters in desperate circumstances (in the case of this movie, Jean who is a deserter trying to flee from France), who have a glimpse of hope and happiness (for example, romantic one, like in our example, Jean is sceptic in the beginning, but eventually falls in love with Nelly) that ends up abruptly and tragically, usually by death of the character (Jean getting shot by Lucien after reaffirming his relationship with Nelly).

Identity and manipulation of it is another a very important segment of the movie. Let us take a deeper look into the series of scenes where Jean tries to take over an identity of a painter in order to escape to Venezuela without being noticed. He gets the suit and equipment of the painter and gets rid of his army markings and clothing. He is soon to be caught in the screwball comedy like series of events (even the date of the release of movie coincides with the emergence of screwball comedies), with the renowned passenger of the ship trying to help him get on the ship by using his personal connections. What Jean did not count on is to acquire some knowledge on art and paintings, and he is forced to participate in a comedic exchange with his new friend, who is very interested in art and does some naïve art himself. When being asked about his insight on art, Jean starts expressing some random thoughts that he just came up with and that may sound profound, but in fact make no sense, and his partner in the conversation goes along, without noticing Jean’s charade. The manipulation of identities is once again used when Zabel tries to frame Jean by placing his military marking and clothing by the corpse of Marcel, thus making it seem like the real perpetrator is Jean.

The exchange of identities that leads to confusion and the risk of being exposed was a well-established tool in comedy that fits really well into the Jean’s storyline.  This series of events does not seem to fit to the mood of the movie as a whole, it is more light-hearted and comedic, while the rest of the movie is filled with jaded characters and seriousness of rugged life.


Another very interesting segment of the movie was the melodramatic premise. Buckland (1998, Film Studies. London: Hodder and Stoughton) lists the following as ‘primary attributes’ of melodrama: women-dominated narratives, the perspective of the victim, moral conflicts, omniscient narration, twists and reversals, chance events and encounters, secrets and dramatic knots which complicate the plot. We can see many of this elements in “Port of Shadows”. The narrative in this case is not very women-dominated, on contrary, there is an evident lack of female characters in the movie, but some other elements of melodrama are undoubtedly present, most notably twists and reversals (Marcel ending up murdered, Zabel trying to frame Jean, Jean killing Zabel and Lucien killing Jean). Also, there are many chance events and encounters, characters in this movie meet in the most unexpected, but strangely convenient times for advancing the plot, like Jean coming right on time to save Nelly from the arms of her godfather, Lucien meeting Jean and Nelly during the carnival ride by chance, an encounter that ends up in a fight and Jean’s death. The destinies of all characters in the movie are intertwined in a net of encounters. Also, the romance between Nelly and Jean complicates the plot when the love interferes with Jean’s plans, and actually get him killed in the end (if he had just stayed on the ship, he would have survived).



The movie represents a very interesting piece made just before the outbreak of the World War II, but it does not deal with troubled times and threatening political and social forces. The movie deals with inner demons and vices of a small town, without ever referring to a greater social structures that may affect or influence this (another feature of Poetic Realism). In all this, I found also interesting elements of melodrama (genre particularly dear to me), suspense and comedy, that may not sound as complementing to the general dark image of the movie, but somehow go along just fine, in the case of this movie. This excursions to different themes made this movie very intriguing and interesting to me, it is a movie that offers a variety of topics.

“Port of Shadows” may ends tragically and bear a certain harshness to it, but it does leave a very light hearted impression in the end. The movie has a very pessimistic premise, the main character tries to reach happiness, but fails in the last moment, just before running away with his love he gets shot. Regardless of this, the movie successfully escapes this pessimism by showing us that his love with Nelly was sincere and brought some contentment to his jaded personality. The movie comes full circle without the happy end, but that contributes to the overall charm of it.


Luigie Lursh G. Almojano on Sous Les Toits de Paris (1930)

One of the classic French films known in the history of world cinema is the 1930 film of René Clair entitled Sous les tois de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris), a story set at the marginalized lower-class district of Paris.  Under the Roofs of Paris highlighted the backdrop of the emerging influence of Poetic Realism. This film movement impacted the way French cinemas’ themes, settings, and characterization were presented and constructed that it usually showed the lives of the people on the margins of society, either struggling members of the working class or as criminals being involved in the urban disputes. Personally, coming from a social science background, I saw the peculiarity of Poetic Realism in the film’s imagery and production of the so-called “French urban melodrama” at that time in France. I observed that in the film most specially in its primary theme and setting how it tried to paint a picture of the everyday life in the marginalized district of Paris. Noticeably, the characters in the film resemble the mundane flow of everyday realities of the lower-class people. The practice of singing in the streets, the modest interaction of the people in the area, and the typical love story of this man bombarded by various hindrances and conflicts represent the daily melodramatic flow of the mundane life, the so-called ordinary life under the roofs of Paris. The attack of the story, and the set-up of the characters and the film’s setting are basically an approach related to the rise of Poetic Realism at that time.


Under the Roofs of Paris, an important film of 1930’s that introduced the effective use of sound in cinema.


It also presented a peculiar picture of Paris, confronted by its everyday realities.


I also noticed the effective construction of the peculiar character of the film’s setting by displaying the usual images that can be seen in a marginalized community, the architecture of the urban life through the shots that displays the chimney of the houses. The honesty and realistic depiction of Paris in that film represented new images of Paris, as an area with rich interaction of people living and working but also an area conflicted by negative and harsh realities.  Thus, the film aside from telling the story of the romantic relations between Pola and the three other guy also tried to display the dark side of that area, which of that time is conflicted with crimes and with some instances of street violence.


The city is also a place for crime and violence. A fight scene in the streets of Paris in the movie.


More importantly, I became particularly interested in the impact of Poetic Realism to influence the film’s characters most specially for Pola, the Romanian lady, was represented in the film as the fantasy of the male characters. It is very evident that in one way or another as the film progresses and as more male characters were related to Pola, it created an impression that Pola started to became “sexualized” and “commodified” as a “trophy” to be won by the male characters. It felt like the male characters were competing to win a prize, and in that case the prize is winning Pola’s heart. It can be clearly observed when Fred started to engage Albert into a fight to settle who’s rightful to be with Pola. This somehow depicts how these characters displayed the “machismo” notion of competition between men to win a girl’s heart as a social trophy of masculinity and power. For me, this is an attempt to highlight the display of the politics of women objectification that can be seen during the earlier part when Albert and Louis played a dice game to know who shall talk to Pola and during the last sequence when they are finally settling who’s going to have the final chance of “winning” Pola’s heart. Aside from its social commentary, I personally think the film presented a very weak and objectified characterization of Pola’s image as a passive character in the film depicted as a “social trophy” — confronted between the power and powerlessness of beauty.


One of the scenes in the movie where Pola stayed in the place of Albert.


The movie featured the rivalry between the two friends, Albert and Louis, to win Pola’s heart.

One of the crucial scenes in the film wherein there is a display of machismo and Pola was treated as a “social trophy.”


Photo Credits:–reviews/under-the-roofs-of-paris-1930-rene-clair

Auliannisa Hermawan on Sous Les Toits de Paris (1930)

Love story in old Paris

The film showed a typical lifestyle in Paris at that time, like Gatsby in America, with vanity and luxury. A simple love story told by the director but touched the audients a lot. A guy, named Albert, makes living by singing in a lower-class quarter in Paris. One day he meets a graceful lady Pola, the street singer Albert falls in love with the Romanian party girl Pola, who is the companion of the gangster Fred. One night, Albert meets with Pola again when her key was just stolen by Fred, Pola is afraid to return home, so Albert brings her to his room and they spend the night together, with Albert sleeping on the floor and Pola on his bed. Early in the morning, the pickpocket guy brings a bag with stolen pieces and asks Albert to keep the bag for him. When the police busts Albert’s room and finds the stolen goods, he is arrested and sent to jail. Meanwhile Fred travels so that Pola seeks comfort with Louis, who is a friend of Albert, and they stay together. When the real thief is arrested by the police, he confesses that Albert is innocent. Albert is released and seeks out Pola immediately, at that time, Fred returns to Paris and also seeks out Pola that is with Louis. The three men all love and want Pola, so only fight can solve this kind of problem. Finally, Albert gives up and helps his friend fulfill his wishes to be with Pola in the end.



The story may seem a little bit thin and weak in nowadays perspective, but at that time, no doubt it was a hit for the integrated narrative, impressed musical comedy and romantic atmosphere. People can catch a sort of French romantics and fashion from this film, which is based on 1930s, in the middle of two world wars, the youth relieve themselves to enhance the new world and booming industry also expand their imagination to approach new lifestyle. We can see all kinds of cultural prosperity at that time around the world, including China and the US. Although the US faced the big depression, but Hollywood was born due people need escape from the reality and entertain themselves. As in China, especially in Shanghai, thousands of pop stars shown up with films and gramophone records, dancing and clubbing with nightlife was a pop culture and soon became a symbol of upper class. While the film is mainly describing the lower-class entertainment, singing songs with the street singer and standing besides the bar with a drink, it accommodates many audients to feel themselves in the sequences as a common people living in a metropolis, but it does not become realistic depictions of circumstances, but a poetic romance, for which reality is only one aspect of life. So it is a fantastic attempt to combine romanticism, realism and idealism all together.



This is the first sound film by René Clair in 1930, though it is part sound and part silent, which is very similar to 1927’s “The Jazz Singer”–with a few songs and a bit of dialog but otherwise being essentially a silent film. Characters only speak when they have to; at other times, they use gestures. We could consider it as a bridge from the silent film to sound film, people would easily benefit from the silence and melody.



Although the integration of sound and image is rather primitive in this film, the portions that include song or instrumental music possess a grace and ease of motion, which people could be easily touched, and the song and instrumental music is also a part of the plot, not only convey feeling and motion, but also makes the story vivid and completed.