Speaking of Le Camelot, the character in L'Atalante played by Gilles Margaritis, during an interview on the DVD of The Complete Jean Vigo, Georgian director Otar Iosseliani says,
The other charmer [seducteur] is someone extremely touching. He hides. That's typically French. He hides everything under a form of clowning. He's impenetrable and neutral. He's cold and mechanical. But you feel that, despite all the misfortunes the director inflicts upon him, he always comes through - because someone is watching him.
On a superficial psychological level, he is just talking about the character's exhibitionist sense of security before an audience. But doesn't this description, and particularly this "he always comes through - because someone is watching him," seem to apply equally well to Chaplin, Harold Lloyd or, perhaps especially, Buster Keaton? In a more profound sense, Iosseliani is talking about the position of the slapstick film hero - his safety is always guaranteed by the camera, and by extension, the audience.
It is oddly fitting in a way that Michael Haneke's (1997) Funny Games came out almost at the same time as a film with almost the same name that sought to revive somewhat the tradition of the cinematic clown, Peter Chelsom's (1995) Funny Bones. For Funny Games is, in a way, the direct opposite of the old slapstick comedies, or rather it is the proof that such films are no longer possible. When Paul (Arno Frisch) winks at us and invites us into his confidence, we know, not only that no-one is safe, but that we will be ourselves responsible for what happens.