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René Clair (1898 - 1981)

Related: French cinema - experimental film

In 1930s France, avant-garde director René Clair made surreal use of song and dance in comedies like Under the Roofs of Paris (1930) and Le Million (1931). [Apr 2006]

European experimental cinema contemporaries: René Clair's Entr'acte took madcap comedy into nonsequitur, and artists Hans Richter, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Germaine Dulac and Viking Eggeling all contributed Dadaist/Surrealist shorts.


René Clair (November 11, 1898 - March 15, 1981) was a French filmmaker.

His most notable film is probably À Nous la Liberté because of the controversy involving Modern Times that ensued. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%E9_Clair [Oct 2004]

Modern Times controversy

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times bore similarities to a René Clair's 1931 À nous la liberté (Freedom for Us) -- such as the conveyor belt gags. This resulted in a controversy which lasted around a decade; Chaplin maintaining that he had never seen the film, as did everyone else at the studio. René Clair refused to take part in the case, always maintaining that they were all in debt to Chaplin. In the end the issue ended with an out-of-court settlement. A speculation over this case was that it was a conspiracy from Nazi-Germany to discredit Chaplin; À Nous la Liberté's production company, Tobis, was German. It is notable that the settlement was reached only after the end of World War II. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Times_%28film%29 [Apr 2006]

Entr'acte (1924)

A two part film that was actually named Entr'acte, was premiered as entr'actes for the ballet Relâche in 1924. This short film was directed by René Clair with the music for both the ballet and the film composed by Erik Satie (actually this would be the last music he composed). For this theatre production the surrealists/dadaists collaborating to the project had invented a new, one-time, flavour of surrealism: instantanéisme. The complete film takes about 20 minutes using such techniques as watching people run in slow motion, watching things happen in reverse, looking at a ballet dancer from underneath, watching an egg over a fountain of water get shot and instantly become a bird and watching people disappear. The cast included cameo appearances of Francis Picabia, Erik Satie, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. The musical direction of the orchestra at the premiere was in the hands of Roger Désormière. The film is included on the Criterion Collection DVD of À Nous la Liberté. The two parts of the film are (note that time indications are approximations while neither film nor music techniques at the time of the premiere allowed exact temporisation in a public performance):

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