Erik Satie/Rene Clair: Entr’acte

May 13, 2007

Here is a terrific little 20 minute film by Francis Picabia (screenplay), and René Clair (adaptation and screenplay) called “Entr’acte.” I’m fairly sure that the music is by Erik Satie and in 1967 was adapted and orchestrated or reorchestrated by Henri Sauguet who also added some additional music. (Which one aped Chopin’s funeral march? If Satie, then there is a collagist element in him that I have never heard before.) The slo-mo chase scene at 11 minutes reminds me of Koyanaskaaski, or is it Magritte in motion? And the relentless pre-minimalismus at 15 minutes drives the scene unlike any music ever written.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine May 13, 2007 at 4:25 am

I din’t think the music is by Satie, but I do think that it is intentionally Satie-like to reflect the time period of the images. There is too much stuff that is Gershwin-ish (note the American in Paris rhythm at the begnning) to make me think that it could be written any earlier than 1937. I would go for 1967 as the year of composition myself. The unnamed film composer uses a lot of film music conventions that, when juxtaposed with images from several decades earlier and material from the beginning of the 20th century seem to be avant-garde. Very clever.

Roger Bourland May 13, 2007 at 5:55 am

Elaine: I know for certain that a lot of this music is from Satie’s PARADE as I know the piece pretty well. IMDB credits Satie and Sauguet as the composers. My guess is that Sauguet did the semi-Gershwin stuff.

Cool pic tho, eh?

dennisbade May 13, 2007 at 2:05 pm

As a matter of fact, the music seems to be the central portion separating the two acts of Satie’s 1924 ballet, Rélâche. The film (with music by Satie) was shown between the live ballet segments.

There’s ONE recording of Rélâche which includes that music, in addition to the ballet score. Here’s a link to the Amazon page. It’s track 30.

PK May 13, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Satie, and Darius Milhaud (I believe, if I remember rightly) also appear in the film. I don’t have time to watch this version to be sure if it is the original (it is sometimes played at concert with the projected film). The opening is unfamilier (Youtube can be very slow loading sometimes. I have the original on DVD I will drag out eventually). I have a score somewhere around in THIS MESS! Way before minimalism, was cinematic music. I believe Satie’s music had a great effect on Maurice Jaubert (France 1900-1940) who is one of my favorite film composers of all time, and very influential in Europe. That there might be musically adulterated versions around is no surprise, as silent films get treated shabbily that way all the time. A fellow from Ireland (Ciarán Crilly – University College Dublin) gave a paper (at a conference at UCSB last year) on the problems involved with syncing the score to the picture, from a conductors point of view, as he often conducted it in concert.

PK May 14, 2007 at 11:00 am

Ah! Here it is, on Criterion Collection’s release of Clair’s À Nous le Liberté is a copy of Entr’acte restored by the Cinémathèque Française and Films Pathé. It looks and sounds, essentially, the same as the version you have posted. The title card mentioning the 1967 recording of the music states it is “sous la direction de henri sauguet”, which implies, to me, conducted by. Several aspects of the music strike me as prescient. The modularity of it, that is, there seems to be a set of sections that are repeated as needed. Then there is the attention to the kinetic aspect of the visual, matching the energy of what we see on screen.

Lately, I have been pondering the possibility of social, physical entertainment through sound. That is, (UGH!) as we hear the man digging a ditch outside our window (UGH!) our physical state of arousal (assuming it is one of relative repose) will adjust upwards. This would be explainable, from a evolutionary standpoint, as pre-preparing for a possible need for fight or flight (the man is wrestling a bear outside the window). Maybe that is why an orchestra in full flight is so exciting, we are hearing a large group of people (60+) seriously exerting themselves, together (and how often do you get to hear that?).

Roger Bourland May 14, 2007 at 4:42 pm

I gotcha. Sustained notes would make us calm? or build tension, or keep the music on an even keel to stay out of the way of the action.

I was thinking about your comment about why people listen to movie music. Y’know, I have to say that it goes well over dinner parties cuz it’s background music. Well, not always. Those chase scenes can spoil a dinner party, but you know what I mean: carefully chosen film music can go great as background music for whatever you wish to use it for. Music nerds like you and me will still end up listening to it, but the rest will just keep on chatting. Just a thought…

PK May 15, 2007 at 8:37 pm

That would be a funny bit, a dinner party at a film score fan’s house, with madly building chase scenes ruining the appetites.

I notice I misspelled entrainment as entertainment, in my last comment, hmmm, Freud where art thou.

As you know, film music releases are often reedited, mixed and even sometimes rerecorded for a more listenable experience. But to evaluate film music requires the picture in sync, because it is the relationship between picture and music that is being evaluated. Some directors do choose to work from the other direction, starting with the natural voice of the music and then applying it to the picture or editing the picture to the music. That technique has been responsible for the last two Oscars.

There is a shrink who uses film music for his analysis. He asks his patient to pick out a piece of film music that matches the way he feels. Maybe because it keeps to a narrower range of emotion for longer. Lord knows you put on Mahler and you might be saying “I feel like this!… No, not like this… but.. kind of like this… no…. ” etc.

Most modern media music is not so much about emotion (I think) outside of the usual throwbacks (Star Wars or Raiders type films, but they are mostly about action). Maybe our generation had become a bit wary of the pot boiler styles of our childhood, it felt too manipulative so we don’t trust it. I always think of American Beauty as a classic example of contemporary film music emotional affect.

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