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René Clair

Updated on December 1, 2016

Rene Clair (1898-1981), French film director, who is regarded as the master of French screen comedy between World Wars I and II. He was born Rene Chomette, in Paris on Nov. 11, 1898. After trying journalism, film acting, and editing, he turned to film directing with Paris qui dort (1923), a science fiction fantasy, and Entr'acte (1924), an avant-garde short presented as part of a staged ballet. He then made longer fanciful films, including two widely acclaimed Labiche farces, Un chapeau de paille d'ltalie (1927) and Les deux timides (1928).

The transition to sound made possible fuller expression of Glair's originality. Adding music and sound effects to his stylized visual rhythm, he blended these elements into a universal language that made dialogue almost superfluous, as in Sows les toits de Paris (1930), which dealt with scenes of Parisian life; Le Million (1931), which portrayed the adventures of a youth who won a lottery but lost the ticket; and A nous la liberte (1931), which was inspired by Charlie Chaplin, and in turn inspired Chaplin's Modern Times.

Clair's subsequent films, made in England and the United States as well as in France, were not equal to his earlier work. Among the best were La beaute du diable (1949) and Belles-de-nuit (1952). In 1960, Glair became the first film maker to be elected to the French Academy.

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