Scen.: Francis Picabia. F.: Jimmy Berliet. M.: René Clair. Int.: Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Inge Frïss, Francis Picabia, Jean Börlin, Georges Auric, Georges Charensol, Marcel Achard, Erik Satie. Prod.: Rolf de Maré per Les Ballets Suédois. DCP. D.: 22’.
René Clair was originally commissioned to make Entr’acte by Rolf de Maré, manager of the Swedish Ballet, to accompany Francis Picabia’s ballet, Relâche, performed from December 5th 1924 at Paris’ Theatre des Champs-Élysées. The ballet opened with a prologue in which Erik Satie, composer of the score for both ballet and film, appears on the roof of the theatre together with Francis Picabia. The film itself was shown during the interval as a means of “getting the audience to leave their seats”, a subversive purpose reported in the press of the day.
Critical reception of Picabia’s ballet was mixed, but the film received unanimous praise. It launched René Clair’s career. René Clair manages to rise above Picabia’s initial screenplay to produce a dynamically and disturbingly edited Dada piece. As R. de Givrey remarked in “Bonsoir” at the time, “by producing an exasperating effect on the senses, it makes one want to slap the man sitting next to one and bite the woman on the other side”. Entr’acte was rereleased at Paris’ Studio des Ursulines cinema in January 1926, with a piano arrangement by Darius Milhaud, based on Satie’s orchestral score. (Satie had died in July 1925).
In 1967 (the year in which Elaine Sturtevant started work on recreating the Relâche event) René Clair combined prologue and film proper, removing certain references to the ballet performance, such as dancer Jean Börlin’s monkey and the final slap in the face, to produce a version which remains the one generally shown today. The restoration resurrects a complete version of the work.
Cinéma, Entr’acte symponique pour le ballet ‘Relâche’, the accompaniment to René Clair’s 1924 film Entr’acte, was Erik Satie’s final composition, but also the first, in terms of its structure based on blocks repeated to hypnotic effect, to become a model for film music reprised every thirty years (Hermann-Hitchcock, Glass-Reggio, Nyman-Greenaway…).
The initial idea for Cinéma derived from a modified and accelerated version of the funeral march from Fryderyk Chopin’s Sonata in C Flat Minor Opus 35, an overused piece in the silent film repertory, that is parodically unveiled in the scene of the funeral.
The synchronisation of this new restoration of Entr’acte was carried out by comparing some of Satie’s handwritten notes, the original orchestral score, and later versions published by Salabert, in an attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the relation between image and music specified by the author: Cheminées. Ballons qui explosent. Gants de boxe et allumettes. Prises d’air, jeux d’échecs et ballon sur le toits. La Danseuse et figures dans l’eau. Chasseur et début de l’enterrement. Marche funèbre. Cortége au ralenti. La Poursuite. Chute du cercueil et sortie de Borlin. Eran crevé et fin.
Three versions for live musical accompaniment exist: the orchestral score, a transposition by Darius Milhaud for piano duet, and one for solo piano, which is the one used for this version of Clair’s film.