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Paris qui Dort

Entry updated 20 June 2020. Tagged: Film.

Film (1924; vt Le Rayon Invisible; vt The Crazy Ray; vt At 3:25). Films Diamant. Written and directed by René Clair. Cast includes Charles Martinelli, Louis Pré Fils, Albert Préjean, Madeleine Rodrigue, Henri Rollan and Marcel Vallée. 59 minutes. Black and white.

This is one of the earliest sf films (other than shorts). A scientist accidentally freezes Paris into a split-second of time with an invisible Ray, which puts to sleep everyone affected (see Suspended Animation); the first half of the film is dominated by sweeping shots of an utterly deserted Paris which powerfully evoke a sense of terminal Holocaust Clair may not have fully intended to convey. In any case, the palette lightens, and the film focuses on some Parisians who have escaped through being either on the Eiffel tower or in a plane. Most of them take advantage of the situation to break out of their social roles, have drunken parties, etc; but a young nightwatchman persuades a group to seek out the source of the problem and put it right, which they do (though at first the recovering victims can move only in slow motion). Made with style and charm by Clair – whose first film it was – Paris qui Dort retains its wit and good humour when seen today. [JB]

see also: Cinema.


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