Sur un Air de Charleston (1927)

aka Charleston
Article 2264 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2007
Posting Date: 10-24-2007
Directed by Jean Renoir
Featuring Pierre Braunberger, Catherine Hessling, Johnny Huggins

In the year 2048 after the war, an explorer takes off in his airship to explore the primitive unexplored area of Europe. There he encounters a female native, who teaches him that primitive native dance, the Charleston.

I probably won’t be seeing enough of Jean Renoir’s oeuvre to really give an evaluation of the man’s work; the only movie I’ve seen of his for the series so far is the entertaining THE TESTAMENT OF DR. CORDELIER , a rather faithful version of the Jekyll and Hyde story. This early silent of his is quite different, and highly entertaining; it’s a satire of adventure stories of the sort where civilized man goes into the wilds of Africa to study primitive native culture. This reverses the situation; it is the black from Africa who is the civilized man with the advanced technology, and the white from France who is the primitive, and the movie, which takes place in the future but pretends to be telling a tale of the past (an idea which popped up in subtle form in THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS ); we learn how white culture is passed on to the black man. It does present a problem for the modern viewer, in that the black man is obviously a white man in blackface, but I think the comic thrust of the tale and the effective use of both slow-motion and fast-motion photography helps to overcome this. Apparently, it was made as a showcase for Jean Renoir’s wife (Catherine Hessling) to show off her considerable dancing prowess. All in all, this is an entertaining short.



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