Paris Qui Dort

Clair's manipulation of the camera as a viewing machine was the subject of Paris Qui Dort. Clair's first film emphasized that the plot was not the central element in the film, but rather a means of providing subjects (Dale, 1986). It was the visual theme of movement which motivated Clair to make this film. The camera rendered shots of Paris that were not previously explored; it allowed the viewer to experience viewed objects as a symphony of motion. The objects in the film became images with a strong poetic sense, due to its lyrical fluidity. The camera repeatedly transposed the sights one sees into meaningful images. Motion was the staple of the film which Clair developed, rather than the characters. The beauty of the film lay in the modernistic vision Clair accomplished in Paris Qui Dort.

The film's opening shots displayed the views of Paris from different positions on the Eiffel Tower, rendering the city as a vast and romantic land. Through tilted angles of the camera, one saw the massiveness of the magnificent monument; it seemed to sprawl along the Seine as the camera eyed the tower up and down. The camera proceeded to follow the watchman down the circular staircase of the tower, and the audience followed his motion continuously with ease and grace of the camera. Time was not essential during the first sequence because it was frozen in the film, allowing Clair to concentrate on the presence of the Eiffel Tower's construction.

When the watchman reached street level, the single shot prevailed. As the watchman wandered the streets of Paris, a scene of an immobilized Parisian in the middle of performing a task faded and followed another individual. The technique of cutting from one single shot to the next was a common character of the cinema, but Clair made it engaging by fading each shot (1986). The camera then cut to a dream in which Paris streets were bustling, but quickly ended and returned to the motionless streets; the busy scene was taken in one shot with great ease of the camera. A car which entered during this sequence appeared at one end of the shot; Clair's camera enabled one to watch the car's movement across the screen,

--Beth Pellegrino

Rene Clair