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Paris Asleep (1925)

The French silent science fiction comedy Paris Asleep by René Clair is about a scientist who invents a time-freezing machine that sends out a ray making people caught in its beam fall asleep. For four days he brings Paris to a standstill and everyone – except the watchman of the Eiffel tower and five people in a plane, above the ray’s reach – are frozen into immobility.

Above: a man steals the necklace from a sleeping woman.

Paris Asleep is an experiment with stillness and a display of how the manipulation of movement can affect the characters of the film. By experimenting with film speeds, directions and shots, Clair also experiments with the concept of time and a filmmaker’s ability to manipulate time and stop time all together. The experiments with stillness begin when the watchman wakes up, looks down from the Eiffel Tower and we see a still image of Paris. He immediately notices that something is wrong as the city seems unusual without the movement of cars and people. Then, he looks at his watch, which has been halted during the night – suggesting that the common metric to organise everyone’s life has been removed. Next, we see the watchman walking around the empty streets of Paris, discovering that everyone else is completely immobilised. The arrest of time and suspension of characters seems comical, but also invokes a frightening feeling that they could be stuck in the instant of time forever.

Above: The watchman is looking down upon a Paris asleep.

Above: all the watches have come to a halt.

He meets the other unaffected people from the airplane, and they immediately start taking advantage of their sudden freedoms; indulging in good food, driving in the “frozen” people’s cars and stealing their things. When boredom starts to set in, they hear a cry for help from the scientist’s niece and hurry down to help her. After convincing the scientist to make everything normal again, they quickly miss their previous freedoms. Not being able to face being poor again, they decide to turn on the ray once more. The scientist finds out, turning it off again and the police catch them while they are trying to steal more money.

When the time-freezing machine is turned on and off, Clair manipulates the direction and speed of time by using accelerated motion, slow motion and reverse motion. To make these manipulations realistic, the movement is not limited to people and we see several shots of traffic and city life edited together to create an overall image of the city. The combination of still (paused) images and moving images illustrates the transition from the still life of stopped time to the movement of normal time. In the end of the film no one believes their story about “a sleeping Paris” and they consider if it was all a dream, but after finding a diamond ring at the Eiffel tower they know it was real.

I believe, Paris Asleep is Clair’s way of playing with the magic of cinema, namely the way – especially early cinema – played with the audience by controlling the movie projector from first showing a still image to suddenly “bringing the image into life”. The people frozen by the scientists ray remind me of people in the cinema sitting still (frozen) watching the rays of the film. The filmmaker has the power to freeze people in a moment of time and to temporarily liberate them from their social classifications, to alter their relationships and to change the outcome of events. Paris Asleep turns reality inside out, making reality a dream, and dream a reality.

Above: a chase scene is paused, the theft is without consequence.

Above: a suicide is delayed, and perhaps prevented.

Watch the film here: Paris Asleep – 1925

Curio #1

A list of curiosities.
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“Jamie Roberts delves into the archive of dance documentarian Dick Jewell, featuring Vivienne Westwood, Neneh Cherry, Boy George and more.”

Interesting documentary about moving images on Dazed Digital’s video site.
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“James Chororos enchants with his photographs of Peru.”
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YouTube Preview Image Here is Martin Scorsese talking about Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman, and the birth of the modern movie presented by the Criterion Collection.
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Amazing photos by Gianni Berengo Gardin
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From February 2012 – February 2014 Mubi shows films by the Belgian-born auteur Agnès Varda who has always bounded forward with a restless, inspiring joy for filmmaking.
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“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty.”

A lovely film By Yann Pineill & Nicolas Lefaucheux.
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YouTube Preview ImageDid you know that you can take a free film course on ‘The Language of Hollywood’ plus several other subjects on Coursera?
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And here’s a podcast from BBC’s Desert Island Disks with Lauren Bacall.

Tears

Do you know that our tears of hope are different from our tears of cutting onions? Rose-Lynn Fisher has explored 100 different tears in “The Topography of Tears“.

Tears of hope.

Onion tears.

Tears of release.

À la Bacall

Elegance wrapped in a name,
“Lauren Bacall”
A husky Newyork drawl,
Let the sound roll of your tongue
A wishful you, full of grace and in control.

“I am sure of who I am,
What I want,
What use I’ll make of you.
A man can’t hold me in his palm
Unless I want him to.”

Yet who would guess behind “The Look”
A stare so hard to please,
A girl called Betty, in her twenties
Is hiding ill-at-ease.

“Elegance is frigid”
Wrote a sage old Japanese
And every time I watch Bacall
I see what he might mean…

Yet there it is again!
In a wave of warm surprise
A moment on screen,
À la Bacall,
Where she is free and loose and true – no ties.

That glimpse of tender in the tough,
Of sassy in the brash
Balances out the attitude,
And with a shimmy and a smile
Can melt a heart or two.

CPH:DOX 2013 Lessons

CPH:DOX 2013 ended a week ago, and I’m still gathering my impressions from the record breaking festival. Here are some of my learnings, inspirations and curiosities from this year’s festival.
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YouTube Preview ImageIt’s possible to see a film about the greatest film that was never made
Jodorowsky’s Dune by Frank Pavich presents to us the story of the greatest film which was never made. It’s the story of how the epic Science Fiction director Alejandro Jodorowsky with a unique ambition who attempted to adapt and film Frank Herbert’s fiction novel Dune in the mid-1970s. For this project he recruited, amongst others, Pink Floyd, H. R. Giger, Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger. He accepted to pay Dali 100,000 dollars per hour, well knowing that he would only be acting in one hour, the remainder, he would film with his double robot. Unfortunately, but not surprising the investors balked when the budget was used and they realised the script would account for a meandering 14-hour film, and it was ultimately shelved.
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YouTube Preview ImageMatt Berninger from The National has a brother
and he thinks Indie Rock is pretentious bullshit.
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Action speaks louder than words
Marie Rømer Westh’s short film ‘In a Brief Moment of Optimism’ is dialogue-free but definitely not silent. It’s an improv performance with a man, a skateboard and an empty room. By trimming it down to these things, the film becomes a powerful portrait of frustration, sadness and loneliness.
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The new ‘groundbreaking online video series’ has lauched
Dazed & Confused Magazine has just launched ‘Visionaries‘, which they modestly describe as ‘a landmark new online series that leads the way in groundbreaking, original video content.’
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Natpwe, The Feast of the Spirits
Natpwe is the name of a euphoric annual trance ritual that has been held in Myanmar since the 11th century. This has been filmed in grainy and black/white images on 8mm and 16mm by Jean Dubrel and Tiane Doan na Champassak. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________
When the Western world sends their old technology to Ghana
a mysterious practice called ‘Sakawa‘ is performed. This is uncovered in Lettres du Voyant by Louis Henderson which also features this amazing soundtrack by Tic-Tac: YouTube Preview Image
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A new distribution platform for films in-between art and cinema
Vdrome is an online platform that offers regular, high quality screenings of films and videos directed by visual artists and filmmakers, whose production lies in-between contemporary art and cinema. Each screening is presented during a limited period, as in a movie theatre.
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If you give yourself the time
to take this trip, you will be rewarded with a rare experience, which will come back to you again and again.
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YouTube Preview ImageSome Italian people dress up as trees
In the south Italian village Satrino an ancient ritual is performed which encourage the men of the village to go into the forest and dress up as trees. They then all return to the village this way and perform some kind of fertility ritual. This was filmed and installed at Den Frie by the Italian artist Michelangelo Frammartino.