Watch Entr’Acte: René Clair’s Dadaist Masterpiece, Scored by Erik Satie and with Cameos by Marcel Duchamp & Man Ray (1924)

René Clair’s 1924 avant-garde mas­ter­piece Entr’Acte opens with a can­non fir­ing into the audi­ence and that’s pret­ty much a state­ment of pur­pose for the whole movie. Clair want­ed to shake up the audi­ence, throw­ing it into a dis­ori­ent­ing world of visu­al brava­do and nar­ra­tive absur­di­ty. You can watch it above.

The film was orig­i­nal­ly designed to be screened between two acts of Fran­cis Picabia’s 1924 opera Relâche. Picabia report­ed­ly wrote the syn­op­sis for the film on a sin­gle sheet of paper while din­ing at the famous Parisian restau­rant Maxim’s and sent it to Clair. While that hand­writ­ten note was the gen­e­sis of what we see on screen, it’s Clair sheer cin­e­mat­ic inven­tive­ness that is why the film is still shown in film schools today.

Clair sought to cre­ate a work of “pure cin­e­ma,” so he filled the film with just about every cam­era trick in the book: slow motion, fast motion, split screen and super­im­po­si­tions among oth­ers. The cam­era is unbound and wild­ly kinet­ic. At one point, Clair mounts the cam­era upside down to the front of a roller­coast­er.

In true Dadaist fash­ion, Clair cre­ates a series of strik­ing images – an upskirt shot of a leap­ing bal­le­ri­na; a funer­al pro­ces­sion bound­ing down the street in slow motion; a corpse spring­ing out of a cof­fin – that seem to cry out for an expla­na­tion but remain mad­den­ing­ly, fre­quent­ly hilar­i­ous­ly obscure.

The movie also serves as a class por­trait of the Parisian avant-garde scene of the ear­ly ‘20s. Picabia and Erik Satie – who scored the movie – are the ones who fired that can­non. In anoth­er scene, Mar­cel Duchamp and Man Ray can be seen play­ing chess with each oth­er on a Parisian rooftop.

Com­pared to Luis Bunuel and Sal­vador Dali’s noto­ri­ous 1928 short Un Chien Andalou – a movie that is still quite shock­ing today – Entr’Acte is a much lighter, fun­nier work, one that looks to thwart bour­geois expec­ta­tions of nar­ra­tive log­ic but doesn’t quite try to shock them into indig­nant out­rage. In fact, to mod­ern eyes, the movie feels at times like a par­tic­u­lar­ly unhinged Mon­ty Python skit. Picabia him­self once assert­ed that Entr’acte “respects noth­ing except the right to roar with laugh­ter.” So watch, laugh and pre­pare to be con­fused.

Entr’Acte will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Two Vin­tage Films by Sal­vador Dalí and Luis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or

The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man: The World’s First Sur­re­al­ist Film

David Lynch Presents the His­to­ry of Sur­re­al­ist Film (1987)

A Tour Inside Sal­vador Dalí’s Labyrinthine Span­ish Home

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.