Onésime horlogemaker. 1912. France. Directed by Jean Durand

In the wake of World War I, American film comedy dominated screens around the world. But between 1908 and 1914, before the international stardom of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, there were the European comedies of Zigoto, Bébé, Onésime, Little Moritz, Robinet, and Max. These distinctively named screen characters were part of a phenomenal outpouring of Euro-clown comedies, featured in over 70 different series in France alone. Produced by prestigious companies like Ambrosio in Italy, Messters in Germany, and Gaumont and Pathé in France, this body of work was, on the whole, more psychologically complex, self-consciously surreal, and edgier than American slapstick. Long deserving of greater notoriety in the U.S., these films are accessible again after 90 years, thanks to ongoing preservation efforts. The films, organized around themes of sex, violence, madness, musical comedy, and science fiction, are all drawn from the legendary collection of Dutch film distributor Jean Desmet. Archivist Elif Rongen-Kaynakci from the Eye Film Institute introduces selected programs. All films are silent with live accompaniment.

Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator, Department of Film, accompanist and film historian Ben Model, and film historian Steve Massa.

Yamaha Modus H1 piano generously provided through Yamaha Artist Services, New York.

Licensing of MoMA images and videos is handled by Art Resource (North America) and Scala Archives (all other geographic locations). All requests should be addressed directly to those agencies, which supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.