LES DEUX TIMIDES
Sog.: dall’omonima pièce di Eugène Labiche e Marc-Michel. Scen.: M.: René Clair. F.: Robert Batton, Nicolas Roudakoff. Scgf.: Lazare Meerson. Int.: Maurice de Féraudy (Thibaudier), Pierre Batcheff (Jules Frémissin), Véra Flory (Cécile), Jim Graéld (Anatole Garadoux), Françoise Rosay (la zia di Jules), Yvette Andréyor (Madame Garadoux), Louis Préfils (il cugino Garadoux), Anna Lefeuvrier (la cugina Garadoux), Madeleine Guitty (Annette), Léon Larive (il cugino Thibautier), Odette Talazac (la cantante). Prod.: Alexandre Kamenka per Films Albatros, Sequana Films. DCP. D.: 77’. Tinted and toned.
Pierre Batcheff is the most exquisite of actors (but “Ciné pour tous” tells us he never answers his mail, so it’s pointless to declare our love for him), matrons argue with their fidgety husbands who noisily blow their noses during the spectacle, kids light firecrackers, and a little mouse interrupts a rather austere, sleep-inducing defense speech. Quite simply, the benign confusions that Alexandre Kamenka and the Albatros company produced in the late 1920s established the entire grammar of comedy à la française that is still alive today: screen adaptations of classic literary texts, misunderstandings and parallel lives from vaudeville, the all-out exploitation of gags and dialogues of the deaf, young heroes who are always in a bind, stuck for solutions, adrift in a world of cheery, everyday caricatures. Les deux timides is the third and final movie René Clair shot for the White Russian’s company in Montreuil, with Lazare Meerson as art director, Roudakoff as cinematographer, and Batton for visual effects. The group around Jacques Feyder (his wife Françoise Rosay and Maurice ‘Crainquebille’ de Féraudy) are excellent on screen. The Clair-Kamenka collaboration remains a classic socio-historical case of the atypical relationship between an author who is emancipating himself and a producer on the road to commercial success. With a consciousness that was not yet totally contemporary and nostalgia probably disconcerting to the press of his day, René Clair mocks the visual clichés in vogue in silent films with fantasy and tenderness and crafts a film that is both a light-hearted parody, like a ‘pre-war’ film, and an avant-garde manifesto: situation comedy, medieval romance, chases, sudden assault, masked brigands, love between introverts, the misery of hygiene, surrealist effects (freeze-frames, reverse motion, superimposition, split-screen, and an unexpected nod to Gance in the final domestic triptych).
Above all, the marvelous ingenuity and astounding modernity of these scenes are only possible in the medium of silent cinema. The ultimate audacity: the film premiered at the Vieux-Colombier in March 1929.