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Two comedy film series—one featuring the newly rediscovered work of French comic and clown Pierre Étaix, the other focusing on the two-reel silent shorts that Buster Keaton made before he turned to features—will unspool between May 31 and June 28 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, 11141 East Boulevard. “Pierre Étaix: The Lost Laugh,” consisting of eight films in five different programs, will run from May 31 through June 27, while “Buster Keaton’s Two-Reel Comedies,” featuring 19 shorts in five different programs, will run from May 31 through June 28.
Pierre Étaix (b. 1928) got his start in music halls and eventually landed a job as illustrator and gag writer for Jacques Tati. He was Assistant Director on Tati’s Oscar-winning 1958 comedy Mon Oncle, and a few years later won his own Oscar for a 1962 comedy short entitled Happy Anniversary that he starred in, co-wrote, and co-directed. The success of this movie and other shorts allowed him to move on to directing (and acting in) comedy features throughout the 1960s. Like the great Tati, Étaix made films that were mostly wordless (he loved silent cinema and the circus), though they often boasted memorable sound effects. His inventive pantomime, sophisticated slapstick, surreal gags, and gentle, put-upon persona prompted some to liken him to Buster Keaton.
Unfortunately, due to longstanding legal entanglements, Étaix’s classic comedies were out of circulation for over two decades. This is one reason he has been largely forgotten. Happily, that situation is now resolved. Eight of Étaix’s best shorts and features have been fully restored and re-released. No longer do we have to settle for fleeting glimpses of this celebrated clown in such movies as Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs (2009) or Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre (2011). Now we can take a long look at this major talent in vehicles tailored to show off his unique comic abilities.
Unlike Pierre Étaix, America’s silent-screen clown Buster Keaton has long been well known. But he is most famous for such comedy features as The General, The Navigator, and Sherlock, Jr., all of which he also directed. But before he transitioned to full-length films, Keaton starred in and directed 19 two-reel comedies between 1920 and 1923. These 20-minute movies are as funny and inventive as Keaton’s longer masterpieces and include some of his greatest single achievements (One Week, Cops, The Boat). This is the first time the Cinematheque has shown all of these Keaton shorts, and all will be seen in 35mm prints with music tracks.
Admission to each program in either series is $9; Cinematheque members $7; age 25 & under $6. On nights when a program from each series shows, one can see both programs for an additional $6. There is free parking for film-goers in the adjacent CIA lot, located off of East Blvd. For further information, call John Ewing or Tim Harry at 216.421.7450, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.cla.edu/cinematheque.
Friday, May 31, at 5:15pm &
Saturday, June 1, at 7:00pm
New 35mm Color Print!
Le Grand Amour (The Great Love)
France, 1969, Pierre Étaix
In this whimsical, delightful 1960s French comedy that wasn’t released in the U.S. until last year, rediscovered comedian Pierre Étaix plays a married, middle-aged businessman who falls for his barely legal new secretary and starts fantasizing endlessly about her. Full of sight gags, this is “Étaix’s last, most cohesive, and greatest feature” (Film Forum, NYC). Étaix’s wife in the film is played by Annie Fratellini, France’s first female circus clown and Mrs. Étaix in real life. Cleveland premiere. Subtitles. 87 min. Preceded at showtime by Étaix’s 15-min. comedy of errors Happy Anniversary (Heureux Anniversaire, 1962), which won the 1963 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject and was co-directed by Étaix’s regular collaborator, the legendary scriptwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who also wrote for Buñuel.
Friday, June 7, at 9:00pm &
Saturday, June 8, at 5:15pm
New 35mm Print!
France, 1962, Pierre Étaix
Pierre Étaix’s first feature finds the French comic playing a shy and studious young man who is urged by his mother to marry. Knowing nothing of romance or courtship, he proposes to the first available woman he sees, his family’s Swedish au pair, but she does not understand what he’s saying. So he leaves the house to observe and learn the ways of love, and gets involved with a string of unsuitable women. “The most successful feature by Étaix.” –The Holt Foreign Film Guide. Cleveland revival premiere. Subtitles. 83 min. Preceded at showtime by Étaix and Jean-Claude Carrière’s 11-min. Rupture (1961), a comedy about a man who receives a “Dear John” letter.
Friday, June 14, at 8:55pm &
Saturday, June 15, at 5:15pm
New 35mm Print!
France, 1965, Pierre Étaix
“The second and possibly the best of Étaix’s features” (Time Out Film Guide) stars Étaix as an unhappy millionaire who joins the circus where his lost love works as an equestrienne. The first part of this film, set during the 1920s, has no dialogue—only music and sound effects—like a silent film of that era. Cleveland revival premiere. Subtitles. 97 min.
Friday, June 21, at 9:00pm &
Saturday, June 22, at 5:15pm
New 35mm Print!
As Long as You’re Healthy
Tant Qu’on a la Santé
France, 1966, Pierre Étaix
Pierre Étaix’s third feature presents four comic vignettes on modern life. The stories focus on an insomniac spending the night reading about vampires; a moviegoer who can’t find a seat in a crowded theatre; a psychiatrist with more problems than his patients; and a hunter who has a run-in with a farmer and a bickering, picnicking couple. Preceded at showtime by Étaix’s Feeling Good (En Pleine Forme, 1966/2010), a short camping comedy that was originally part of As Long as You’re Healthy, but later removed by Étaix. Cleveland revival premiere. Subtitles. Total approx. 78 min.
Thursday, June 27, at 7:30pm
New 35mm Color Print!
Land of Milk and Honey
Pays de Cocagne
France, 1971, Pierre Étaix
The fifth (and final) feature by France’s Pierre Étaix is a striking (and biting) change of pace for the mild-mannered, Keaton-like comedian. It’s a group portrait of complacent French people on holiday at the beach and in the countryside, shot three months after the explosive events of May 1968. Étaix’s camera captures the vacationers as they spout off on a variety of topics—from eroticism and violence to marriage and even architecture. It was not well received by his public and essentially ended his filmmaking career. “Cleverly furious and deftly discerning.” –The New Yorker. Subtitles. 74 min.
Friday, May 31, at 7:20pm &
Saturday, June 1, at 5:15pm
MOCA Cleveland co-presents
Buster Keaton’s Two-reel Comedies, Program 1
USA, 1920-21, Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
Here are the first four of the 19 hilarious two-reelers that Buster Keaton starred in and directed before turning his attention to features. (The remaining 15 shorts will show over the next four weeks.) Program includes: The High Sign (1921), in which Buster plays a contract killer; One Week (1920), in which Buster builds a pre-fab house; Convict 13 (1920), in which Buster escapes Death Row only to be mistaken for a prison guard by other convicts; and The Scarecrow (1920) in which Buster competes with his roommate for the hand of a farmer’s daughter. All silent with music tracks. 35mm. Total 76 min. This program is co-presented by MOCA Cleveland, whose exhibition "Kate Gilmore: Body of Work," on view until June 9, features performance-based videos and sculpture by an artist who acknowledges Keaton as an influence. MOCA members $7. A ticket stub from this program can be redeemed for half-price admission to MOCA through June 9.
Thursday, June 6, at 5:45pm &
Friday, June 7, at 7:15pm
Buster Keaton's Two-reel Comedies, Program 2
USA, 1920-21, Buster Keaton et al.
Four more hilarious Buster Keaton two-reelers made before the star and director turned his attention to features. Program includes: Neighbors (1920; co-directed by Eddie Cline), in which a high wooden fence won’t stop acrobatic Buster from seeing his beloved girlfriend in the tenement next door; The Haunted House (1921; co-directed by Eddie Cline), in which Buster plays a disgraced bank clerk involved with thieves and counterfeiters; Hard Luck (1921, co-directed by Eddie Cline), in which a suicidal man regains his confidence after a series of hunting and fishing adventures; and The Goat (1921; co-directed by Malcolm St. Clair), in which Buster is mistaken for escaped convict “Dead Shot Dan.” All silent with music tracks. 35mm. Total approx. 83 min.
Thursday, June 13, at 5:45pm &
Friday, June 14, at 7:10pm
Buster Keaton's Two-reel Comedies, Program 3
USA, 1921-22, Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
Four more amazing two-reelers that their star and director Buster Keaton made right before turning to features. Program includes: The Playhouse (1921), in which Buster imagines a variety show that stars him in every role; The Boat (1921), in which Buster builds a boat (the “Damfino”) that leads to a series of catastrophes; The Paleface (1922), in which Buster plays an entomologist who runs afoul of warring Indians who hate white men; and Cops (1922), in which Buster finds himself pursued by the entire LAPD. All silent with music tracks. 35mm. Approx. 82 min.
Thursday, June 20, at 5:45pm &
Friday, June 21, at 7:15pm
Buster Keaton's Two-reel Comedies, Program 4
USA, 1922, Buster Keaton et al.
The brilliant Buster Keaton in four more classic shorts he starred in and directed. Program includes: My Wife’s Relations (1922; co-directed by Eddie Cline), in which Buster mistakenly marries a woman with four gorilla-like brothers; The Blacksmith (1922; co-directed by Malcolm St Clair), in which Buster plays a bumbling smithy; The Frozen North (1922, co-directed by Eddie Cline), in which Buster spoofs William S. Hart’s melodramatic westerns (Hart was not amused); and Daydreams (1922; do-directed by Eddie Cline), in which Buster tries to make it in the big city. All silent with music tracks. 35mm. Total approx. 84 min.
Thursday, June 27, at 6:00pm &
Friday, June 28, at 7:15pm
Buster Keaton's Two-reel Comedies, Program 5
USA, 1922-23, Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
The last three of the 19 inventive short comedies that Buster Keaton starred in and directed before turning his attention to features. Program includes: The Electric House (1922), in which botanist Buster tries to wire a house; The Ballonatic (1923), in which Buster accidentally takes off in a hot-air balloon and has a series of fantastic adventures; and The Love Nest (1923), in which Buster joins the crew of a whaling ship run by a vicious captain. All silent with music tracks. 35mm. Approx. 66 min.
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