Paris Qui Dort by René Clair


A half-hour comic science fiction film made the same year as Clair’s much more experimental Entr’acte (1924):

The young keeper of the Eiffel Tower awakes one morning and, from his vantage point at the top of the tower, finds that the whole of Paris is at a standstill. On descending the tower, he finds the streets are filled with stationary cars and motionless people. He meets up with a group of tourists who have just landed in a biplane at Paris airport. Unable to explain what has happened, they waste no time profiting from their situation – acquiring new clothes, jewels and wads of bank notes. But they soon grow tired of their new-found freedom and return, bored, to the Eiffel Tower. There, they receive a radio message from a girl, asking to be rescued. She claims to know what has happened to Paris…

Scenes of empty cities are always fun although the effect here is rather hit-and-miss when you glimpse distant cars moving down the streets. The film has French intertitles but the copy at Ubuweb includes a translation. The idea of using temporary stasis to commit robberies reminds me of Arthur C Clarke’s short story All the Time in the World in which someone uses a time accelerator to plunder the British Museum. The story was filmed for American TV in 1952, and may be watched here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Entr’acte by René Clair