Still one of the best-known avant-garde films of the 1920s, Entr’acte was immediately heralded as a “cinematic masterpiece.” It stages a series of zany, disconnected scenes, including a chess match between Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray that is swept away by a jet of water, a dizzying roller coaster course, a hearse pulled by a camel, and a high-speed chase through Paris’s Luna Park. During its first public projection, this silent film was accompanied by an orchestra. The composer, Erik Satie, carefully pegged the music to each filmic sequence, thereby creating what the film’s director, René Clair, would later call “the first composition written for the cinema ‘shot by shot.’”
Gallery label from Francis Picabia: Our Head Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, 2016.
A classic of avant-garde cinema, Entr'acte was made as an intermission piece for the Ballets Suédois production of Relâche, a Dada theater work that premiered in Paris in December of 1924. The ballet's director, Francis Picabia, gave René Clair a short scenario around which to build the film, and Erik Satie composed an original score to accompany it, but the finished work is "pure" cinema—the individual shots and the connections between them resulting in what Clair described as "visual babblings." Key figures of the contemporary Parisian art world appear in the film in absurd comic cameos, including Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Borlin (director of the Ballets Suédois), Georges Auric, Picabia, and Clair himself. As Picabia declared, Entr'acte "respects nothing except the right to roar with laughter."
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 104.
Entr'acte is a veritable encyclopedia of the cinema of magic: the image plastic and kinetic, the sensibility comic, inventive, charming and absurd. Made as intermission entertainment for the Ballet Suédois, from an impromptu scenario by Francis Picabia and accompanied originally by an orchestral score by Erik Satie, the film stars a who's who of the Dada movement of Paris at the time. The plot, a series of improbable adventures, is inconsequential except as an excuse for Clair to explore the limits of the medium: the camera is run forward and in reverse, tipped side to side and upside down; the film is single-framed, undercranked, and run at high speed; the resulting action is animated, sped up, slowed down; the visuals are superimposed and transformed through various matte frames; the viewer is caught up and assaulted by the frenetic pace of the recorded and edited image. The sum of these parts is a charming but challenging vision of Paris as a world of the imagination and the Dadaist intellectual conceit.
Publication excerpt from Circulating Film Library Catalogue, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1984, p. 167.