Les Affaires Publiques (Robert Bresson / France, 1934):

Hommage à Mack Sennett. The copy restored at the Cinémathèque Française is said to be incomplete, but even at just 25 minutes Robert Bresson has lots of material to work with, and he keeps it swirling like a three-ring circus, all speed. Crogandie is his Freedonia, Beby is the clown-dictator who unveils a statue and precipitates an epidemic of yawning; the princess (Andrée Servilanges) of the neighboring kingdom of Miremie crash lands amid the festivities to look for a husband, the rest of the reel zips by via gags out of Chaplin, Keaton, McCarey, Edgar Kennedy. Aristocratic furs and feathers are twirled about, the singing of the national anthem isn’t far from the Folies Bergère. Top hats are to be set ablaze and hosed down, long beards are rolled up and sheared off; the most beguiling bit of surrealism has a building scared off its foundation by the sound of a tuba and lulled back by piccolo tooting. Bresson, "un pessimiste gai"? The humor of Mouchette or Four Nights of a Dreamer, say, may require a keen eye, but in this daft caprice it spurts and geysers. The spoof of diplomatic matters builds to the clash between launching ship and unbreakable bottle, resolved in a Potemkin jest appreciated by Tex Avery. With Marcel Dalio. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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