Satie it was who composed using his own technique and wrote highly specific instructions to musicians asking them to play such titles as Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear with “much more illness” or “light as an “egg”. But he wasn’t flippant; heartbroken after his split with famous artist and muse, Suzanne Valadon, he composed Vexations, a single theme to be repeated 840 times in succession - anxious musical ponderings that lead nowhere: despair remains the same and no feelings are excised.
|Satie and Francis Picabia|
He collaborated and influenced waves of Parisian artists across a variety of media and in 1917 he scored the ballet Parade for typewriters, sirens, ticker tape and a lottery wheel amongst other artefacts. The scenario was written by Jean Cocteau and stage design was by Pablo Picasso.
|Under the roofs of Paris...|
Satie himself gets things off to a bang as he and Picabia leap in exaggerated slow motion towards a canon overlooking Paris. Taking their time they load the gun and fire a shell directly to camera: this one’s for the audience.
The funeral cart becomes separated from the camel and develops a life of its own, speeding off through Parisian streets with the mourners in hot pursuit. Eventually it reaches the countryside and spills the coffin into a field… those who had managed to keep up surround the casket only to reel in shock as the lid is lifted to reveal the young man fit as a fiddle and dressed as a magician.
He pulls out his wand and one by one magics the mourners away before turning it on himself and with a short flourish making himself disappear. All gone, as if they never really existed…
|Vivaient-ils dans le film ?|
It’s amusingly done by Clair and it would interesting to see the film in the context of the ballet as a whole as intended - it might explain more... Yet what we have gives a clear impression of the surrealist intent and its all the more precious for Satie’s contribution and the footage of the great man taller than I expected in top hat and beard, smiling at all the mischief.
He died the following year overcome by the effects of years of alcoholic abuse; the absinthe got him in the end.
Entr'acte is available on the under card of the Criterion DVD of Clair’s A Nous La Liberte. You can find it on Amazon or order direct from Criterion themselves.
There are also over nine hours and forty minutes of Vexations available on YouTube... played by Nicolas Horvath. I'm listening to them as a type...