Clair, René

Clair, René

Clair, René (rənāˈ klâr), 1898–1981, French film director, writer, and producer. Beginning as a film critic, Clair first received international attention in the 1930s with his early sound films, notable for their satirical content and lovely photographic treatment. His Under the Roofs of Paris (1929) helped to suggest that the new medium could be freed from its static “talky” quality and use sound creatively. It was followed by the equally imaginative Le Million (1931) and À Nous la liberté (1932). His other films include The Ghost Goes West, (1935), Beauties of the Night (1952), and Les Fêtes Galantes (1965). In 1962 he was elected to the French Academy, the first film director to be so honored.


See his Reflections on the Cinema (tr. 1953) and Cinema Yesterday and Today, ed. by R. C. Dale (1972).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Clair, René


(real name, René Chomette). Born Nov. 11, 1898, in Paris. French motion-picture director and screenwriter. Member of the Académie Française (1960).

Clair’s art reached its full flower in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His first film, The Crazy Ray (1923), was a comedy with a whimsical, fanciful plot, and subsequent films—for example, L’Entr’acte (1924)—were in the same spirit. He also directed The Italian Straw Hat (1927), based on a comedy by E. Labiche, and Two Timid Souls (1928). Sous les Toits de Paris (1930), a sensitive musical comedy that combined subtle humor with lyrical sadness, was a landmark in French cinema. A Nous la liberté! (1932) and The Last Billionaire (1934) had elements of the grotesque and social satire.

In the mid-1930’s, Clair worked in Great Britain (the comedy The Ghost Goes West, 1936, and Break the News, 1938) and in the USA (I Married a Witch, 1942). He returned to France in 1947, directing the lyrical comedy Silence Is Golden (1947) and the philosophical drama Beauty and the Devil (1950), a modern version of the Faust legend. Clair dealt with the juxtaposition of dreams and reality in Beauties of the Night (1952).

Clair’s affinity for provincial city life is evident in the lyrical and humorous Les Grandes Manoeuvres (1955), for the low life of Paris in Porte des Lilas (1957; known in the USSR as On the Outskirts of Paris), and for peasants in All the Gold in the World (1961). As a director, Clair sought to counteract the prosaic grayness of bourgeois life with the elegance and wit of poetic invention. He wrote the screenplays for several of his films.


Razmyshleniia o kinoiskusstve. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from French.)


Leprohon, P. Sovremennye frantsuzskie kinorezhissery. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from French.)
Avenarius, G. “Rene Kler.” In the collection Frantsuzskoe kinoiskusstvo. Moscow, 1960.
Braginskii, A. V. Rene Kler. Moscow, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.