Quatorze Juillet (Clair, 1933)

Quatorze Juillet (René Clair, 1933)

This film wasn’t as good as I had hoped, though the first half an hour is magnificent. Clair sets the film up nicely, as he films the back streets of Paris with beautiful long takes. The camera sweeps through the generally unvisited parts of the city as the residents prepare for Bastille Day. Amongst all the hustle and bustle is a young couple – a girl who sells flowers, and a boy who drives a cab. Their relationship is cute, playful, and new enough to tease each other with false indifference. Along the way they meet another cabbie and a rich, old drunk, and the four of them have an exciting Bastille Day night.

To add a bit of conflict, just as the boy and girl share a passionate kiss goodnight, the boy’s ex-flame comes back into town to complicate things. I really sensed the film was heading towards greatness here, but instead of using the ex-girlfriend as the root of the conflict, Clair has the boy join up with a team of thieves, and the film’s tone and even purpose deviate a bit too much, and my interest somewhat waned. The conclusion feels a bit too quick and tidily wrapped up as well.  8/10


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