René Clair: Cinema Yesterday and Today (1970/1972)

25 January 2013, dusan

This is the first English translation of Rene Clair’s Cinema d’hier, cinema d’aujourd’hui, which, when it appeared in France in 1970, easily won the prize for best film book of the year. In it the master of French film comedy plays with time in much the same way that a film editor might – he combines reviews written during the twenties and thirties with comments made in 1950 and again in 1970, and includes brief notes from other years as well as an imaginary dialogue with himself across time. The result is surprisingly unified. It is Clair’s coherent vision of the cinema as he surveys his entire career and the whole of film history. In the best sense of the term, it is an essay, and one of the very few such works written by a giant in the world of film.

Mixing personal memories with critical perception and aesthetics, he discusses the making of Entr’acte and comments specifically on a large number of European and American films. He recounts his struggle through the birth of the sound film, hailing it for its potential but regretting the loss of a world of dreams.

Clair does not consider cinema in a vacuum but alludes frequently to the works of Rimbaud, Jarry, Shakespeare, Moliere, Racine, De Quincey and a host of others. His own writing is full of intelligence, freedom and elegance. His defense of comedy is striking, and he gives ample play to his own comic sense in the many anecdotes that everywhere enliven the text. Perhaps his love of cinema is best illustrated by his use of three words in describing it–“miracle,” “faith” and “grace.”

Originally published in French as Cinéma d’hier, cinéma d’aujourd’hui, Gallimard, 1970
Translated by Stanley Appelbaum
Edited and with an Introduction by R C Dale
Publisher Dover Publications, 1972
ISBN 0486227758, 9780486227757
260 pages


One Response to “René Clair: Cinema Yesterday and Today (1970/1972)”

  1. focion on January 28, 2013 6:18 pm


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