Under the Roofs of Paris (Clair, 1930)
This review contains spoilers (2nd paragraph).
At this point I’m not sure why I watch anything but 1920s/30s love stories. Sure, there’s other stuff that’s good, but this has to be the best cinema out there. Under the Roofs of Paris isn’t as romantic as a Borzage film, or as brutally honest as Vigo’s L’atalante. But Clair does a great job of capturing romance, heartbreak, and confusion – ultimately, a perfect portrayal of new love – on film. The camera sweeps across the city, capturing its details, its people, their shadows, and their secrets.
Albert and Pola are our two young lovers, though their path doesn’t begin as one would expect, nor does it end that way. After a nice evening together, Albert tries to coax Pola into letting him spend the night with her. Though she turns him down, she is forced to stay at his place when she finds her key is missing. They have a rough time getting things going, but ultimately find love in each other. Clair’s slow approach is perfect. However, after Albert finds himself in jail, it only takes Pola 15 days to ‘fall in love’ with Albert’s friend. After such a meticulous approach to setting up a real relationship between Albert and Pola, I was surprised to see this move. It’s a small flaw though, and the minor betrayal on Pola’s part does give the film a unique resolution. 9.5/10