René Clair Can Do Anything

René Clair Can Do Anything

Working in creative fields finds one surrounded by vacuous, sallowed eyed cretins angling at some sort of all encompassing grandeur. For the most part they don’t receive what’s sought. On occasions that creative fervor is rewarded by widespread acclaim, though, it’s pretty easy to understand the outcome as some sort of pandering – how else does one endear a work to a wide, wide audience?

Those granted general acclaim and who retain a modicum of artistic credence, though, seem to be capable of working in more than one mode. Gone are times, for the most part, when a painter only paints or a novelist only writes fiction. In filmic terms, then, a director needs to possess the ability to supersede genre and craft works that touch on any and all approaches to film. That doesn’t mean releasing comedy and subsequently releasing a drama – although, that’s part of it. But being capacious of rendering film in a narrative form while also containing talent pointed enough to work in more verbose terms – the avant garde, if you will – seems like the hallmark of an insurmountable talent.

René Clair doesn’t often receive the same sort of acclaim that the French New Wave folks get – an no, it’s not even necessarily deserved. But what Clair was able to do over his career, apart from influence the following generation of Frenchie film bugs, was to move from the outreaches of the vanguard and slowly work his way into more traditional narrative films.

Filmed in 1924, Entr'acte includes appearances by a bevy of creative types – Erik Satie and Francis Picabia open the film by doing a weird, slow motion dance with a canon. There’s no semblance of plot and if we were to get into attempts at defining meaning, we’d be here all day.

Willfully artsy, the film still didn’t take itself too seriously. And it didn’t need to based upon the skewed vision being related. Two decades on in 1945, Clair went in on an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Without even watching this mystery, which could have been a play and reads like a British period Hitchcock effort, the cavernous space between Clair’s earlier avant-leaning work and this narrative film are apparent.

Despite being relatively ignored at this point – apart from nerdly academic circles – Clair epitomized artist’s necessity to embrace any and all forms of art making. Of course, if both these films were failures, this conversation wouldn’t be needed. Luckily for us, though, each is worth a viewing.