René Clair's last silent film, Two Timid Souls was screened at two sold-out special performances during the Tribeca festival, with live accompaniment by the NYC Chamber Orchestra. The commissioned score worked well, although I can't say I'm a big fan of impressionistic composition. It helped kick out the memory of a particularly nightmarish screening of Pandora's Box that some idiot had decided to accompany with Ein Klein Nacht Music. On a loop. So my preference for something a little more experimental can only seem ungracious by comparison. I always think having live accompaniment is a treat, and the atmosphere in the theater was great. I wasn't so keen on the decision to have someone read out the titles; I found it a bit intrusive and would have preferred additional English subtitles since my French isn't up to much.
Frémissin (Pierre Batcheff), a shy young lawyer, is the first of the timid souls of the title. The film opens with a farcical courtroom scene, where Frémissin spectacularly fails to defend his client, the burly, bullying Garadoux (Jim Gérald), who is on trial for abusing his wife. The story fast forwards to Frémissin failed attempts to ask Thibaudier (Maurice de Féraudy) - the second timid soul - for his unfortunate daughter Cecile's hand in marriage. Poor Cecile (Véra Flory), in love with Frémissin, finds herself stuck between two men who are seemingly unable to rise to any action of their own accord. Her father, in the meantime, has been bullied into accepting a proposal from Garadoux, who is now out of prison, a widower, and hiding his criminal past.
It's a charming rather than hilarious movie, with some great scenes featuring street urchins and imaginary masked bandits. Pierre Batcheff, the films fey hero, went onto star as a radically different kind of leading man in Buñuel's Un chien andalou, released the following year, and to commit suicide three years after that at the age of 25.