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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
7:00 p.m. The Italian Straw Hat
René Clair (France, 1928)

Live Music/Judith Rosenberg on piano


(Un chapeau de paille d’Italie). A masterpiece of silent comedy, The Italian Straw Hat is a tribute by René Clair to the early French pioneer filmmakers, but one that moves with a rhythm and tempo unseen before its time. The setting for this delightful farce is 1895. On the way to a wedding, the groom’s horse stops for breakfast. This consists of one straw hat, belonging to a lady out for a stroll with a young officer. As she is married—but not to the officer—it is strongly recommended that, in order to allay the suspicions of the lady’s husband, the hapless groom produce an identical hat. This he attempts while going through with the day’s festivities, which are farcical enough to begin with. “One of the funniest films ever made, and one of the most elegant as well” (Pauline Kael).

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Clair, based on the play by Eugene Labiche, Marc Michel. Photographed by Nicolas Rudakoff, Maurice Desfassiaux. With Albert Prejean, Olga Tschekova, Vital Geymond, Paul Olivier. (84 mins, Silent, B&W, 35mm, From BFI/NFTVA, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)