For Reel

And Then There Were None (1945)
August 8, 2014, 1:28 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: René Clair
4.5 Stars
And Then There Were NoneThe best-selling novel by the best-selling novelist has been adapted and reimagined countless times since its publication in 1939, but perhaps no version is better loved than René Clair’s 1945 original. For good reason–like the other great films that the French master made in Hollywood (including I Married a Witch and It Happened Tomorrow), And Then There Were None is a well-paced genre picture that is elevated by an extraordinary cast and consistently inventive, dynamic visuals. Take the outdoor scenes, for instance, in which the strangers survey the island in search of the absent Mr. Owen. Clair often shoots the cast from a low angle and has them occupy only the bottom half of the frame–although the angle might suggest their power in conventional film language terms, the vast sky is actually the oppressive force, suggesting their powerlessness. That this is a film very much about voyeurism and paranoia also gives Clair a number of opportunities to play with the idea of spectatorship. Most memorably, he films one character looking through a keyhole, only to pull the camera back and reveal that another character is looking at the first character through a different keyhole, and so on. The cast is stacked with great supporting players, but perhaps the most memorable performance is Richard Haydn as the bumbling butler who takes great offense to being considered a prime suspect early in the investigation.

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