While an architecture student at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Rene Clement painstakingly assembled the animated film Cesar les Galous. He made his live-action directorial debut in collaboration with Jacques Tati with the 1936 short Soigne ton Gauche. Clement spent the latter half of the 1930s filming documentaries in the French territories of Africa and Arabia. In 1937, he and archaeologist Jules Barthou were in Yemen preparing for the documentary short L'Arabie Interdite when they were captured, jailed and given death sentences. The two were freed and Clement returned to France with the film. In 1946, Clement acted as technical consultant on Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946); this enabled him to finally direct a feature film on his own, the highly regarded "French resistance" melodrama La Bataille du rail, which blended the verisimilitude of Clement's documentaries with the story-telling skills he'd gleaned from Cocteau. Though he'd begun his career with a cartoon and gained his postwar reputation by toiling on a Cocteau fantasy, Clement emerged as one of the postwar era's staunchest advocates of Neo-Realism. He also became fascinated with the challenge of filming under near-impossible conditions; witness his Les Maudits, a submarine drama lensed within a genuine (and none too spacious) sub. Rene Clement's masterpiece was Forbidden Games, a haunting tale of war's carnage told from a child's point of view. The film was honored with multiple industry awards, including the American Oscar. Almost as unforgettable was Gervaise (1956), an ultra-realistic Emile Zola adaptation starring Monica Vitti. Clement was known as a superb craftsman and often took his sweet time making films, but despite the time and effort expended, his subsequent output was of decidedly uneven quality. With the exception of Plein Soleil/Purple Noon (1960), the film that made Alain Delon an international star, and Le Passager de la Pluie/Rider on the Rain (1970), one of the few films to show the gentler side of Charles Bronson, Clement's films were generally poorly received at international box-offices. One of his more famous failures was the big-budgeted Is Paris Burning?, an international co-production featuring a script by Coppola and an all-star cast that fell far short of its concept. Clement made his final film, Le Baby-Sitter in 1975. Within a decade, Clement was nearly forgotten. Nearly, but not quite, for in 1984, he was awarded a special Cesar to honor a lifetime of achievement.
~ Hal Erickson, Rovi