Based on Eugène Labiche’s masterpiece of 19th-century vaudeville, René Clair’s breakthrough film remains one of the wittiest and most elegant screen comedies ever made. Written, directed and premiered in a mere five months (the script was completed in eight days!), it is a delightful feast of movement, rhythm, and purely visual gags—there are barely two dozen intertitles in all. Film critic Pierre Billard credits Clair’s “coherent vision of the film from the very start, an impetus so powerful and so accurate that the directing of the film came in one steady flow and the editing was done in the course of shooting.” Maud Nelissen, one of Pordenone’s youngest star musicians, enhances Clair’s gentle balance between dramatic construction and narrative pacing with her newly composed score. —PCU
Born under the name of René Chomette in 1898, René Clair René Clair started life as a journalist and then turned to the cinema in 1920. At first an actor and assistant director, he started making films with Paris qui dort and Entr’acte (1924), a pearl of the surrealist cinema.
Commercial success and critical acclaim came with the brilliant farce comedy, An Italian Straw Hat (1927) followed by his famous early musical talkies, Le Million (1931) and A nous la liberté (1932). He continued his career in Hollywood during the war and came back to France to make the films of his mature years, Le Silence est d’or (1947) et Les Grandes manœuvres (1955). René Clair was elected to the Académie Française in 1960 and died in 1981. —Octuor de France
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