René Clair Brenda Davies - Essay

Brenda Davies

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Even in his days as an innovator René Clair was firmly rooted in cinema tradition. It should come as no surprise therefore to find him making a thoroughly traditional French bucolic comedy. What is rather unexpected about Tout l'Or du Monde … is that its lineage appears to be from Joffroi through Clochemerle and the [Jacques] Tati films rather than through his own early work. It is positively earthy and almost totally lacking in the characteristic Clair element of fantasy. Nevertheless the theme and the gentle satire with which it is treated both have their relation to the earlier Clair, and he has retained all his ability to work up a series of gags on the slenderest of threads. (p. 145)

[The] film itself comes down firmly on the side of the simple life. Audience sympathy is enlisted unmistakably for 'Toine, the shy shepherd who is content to "spend his life among his apple trees," and the speculator is characterised or caricatured as a greedy heartless villain….

But no one is really in any doubt where Clair stands in these matters. Like Renoir (Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe) …, he is adding his vote for the old comfortable unhygienic past and against the brave new automatic age. It is a natural attitude for a man of his generation and it is expressed in this film with humour and charm…. [The] film has a leisurely tempo of its own and needs no artificial accelerator. Indeed Clair demonstrates his mastery of a witty visual shorthand time and time again. We see old Dumont hacking away at a hated hoarding on his land, we see the hoarding falling towards him—cut to a shot of the village belfry and the old man's demise is established. It is this kind of stylistic economy which gives the film a personal touch and a sharpness which is lacking in the screenplay. Without it,… the satire could have been too slack to stretch over ninety minutes. As it is the chuckles flow continuously, and if the targets are wide they are hit with a satisfying regularity. (p. 146)

Brenda Davies, "Film Reviews: 'Tout l'or du monde'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1963 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer, 1963, pp. 145-46.