Clair: À nous la liberté (1931)

It’s very difficult for me to say anything about this film because I so deeply long to forget it, to pretend that Clair never produced any work except Sous les toits de Paris — and it’s for all the wrong reasons, perhaps. In toits de Paris Clair uses sound so brilliantly that it led me to reconsider how I understand sound not only in film, but also in every single moment of life. I began studying something along the lines of ‘the physics of sound’ recently, and though it tends to be a very dry subject on paper, it’s when I lift my head and look around, clap my hands, shout at the walls, and observe speaker cones that I become fascinated. Because I take it for granted now, but Rene Clair didn’t, and neither did his audiences. Development is natural for us, but so is reminiscing, even if I’m watching a 1931 film and reminiscing about 1930, there’s still development that his audiences must have gleefully pointed out to one another, how one year ago the characters didn’t really speak except when you couldn’t see their lips, you know, when the lights are out or when their faces are turned. Now they do. It’s almost as if they’re real people. And yet I prefer a grainy black and white to something that looks real?

I really haven’t anything else to say about this film except to point out its being a milestone for sound, then. But whereas Clair was forced to be brilliantly creative in Paris, in liberté, he only has to be technically knowledgeable and slightly gimmicky. And so I can’t fall in love.

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