Tati reinstates M. Hulot as a protagonist, returning to the bucolic charm of his first feature (“Jour de Fete”) and its subsequent “rediscovery of roads, nature, cows, trees, and meadows.”
In this astute tale, Hulot is assigned with escorting a prototype for a ridiculously gadget-addled, super-deluxe camper from its French factory to the International Automobile Show inAmsterdam. Of course, a comic set of obstacles, detours and mishaps sets the caravan reeling.
Running time: 96 Minutes.
Born in aParissuburb onOctober 9, 1908, Jacques Tati, a maestro of modern film comedy, died in 1982.
Though he made only six feature films in his thirty-five year career, each one of Tati’s works is a carefully calibrated, meticulously designed, highly clever, and delectably playful. Historians agree that Tati reshaped slapstick comedy, turning it into an intellectual parlor game, a smart cinematic chess.
He is known as the creator of complex comic narrative structures in which visual gags and jokes construction are well integrated into a coherent whole, displaying a unique philosophy of life and cinematic point of view.
The recurrent figure in these tableaux is Monsieur Hulot, Tati’s alter-ego, a blank-faced comic clad in a crumbled raincoat and ill-fitting trousers, an ever-present pipe muffling the words, and an umbrella in his hands. Hulot’s irresolute stride across the elaborate canvases is the spark that sets afire the complex machinery.
Tati began directing features when he was well into his thirties. An athlete in his youth, he applied this physicality to becoming a music-hall star, excelling in pantomime and acrobatics.
He first achieved success with the 1947 short “Schoolof Postmen,“ which he then adapted into a feature, The Big Day” (“Jour de Fete”) in 1949.
The comedy deals with a sleepy rural hamlet that comes to life the day a carnival arrives. Tati reprised his role as a cycling postman (it’s a character the great Russian director) Andrei Tarkovsky would pay homage to in his final film, “The Sacrifice,” in 1986.
With his second film, “Mr. Hulot’sHoliday”(1953), Tati introduced a great comic persona, an alter-ego that become synonymous with him for the rest of his career.
In 1958, Tati made what became his best known film, “Mon Oncle,” after winning the Best Foreign Language Oscar. In this picture, M. Hulot is perplexed by the odd mechanics of a modern suburban home.
After his commercial and critical success, Tati built an entire mini-metropolis in aParissuburb, “Tativille,” supplied it with electricity, paved roads and running water, and produced the bold and highly inventive film, “Playtime.” In its subversive approach, “Playtime” contains decoys and doppelgangers, with the screen teeming with layers of action, movement and textures.
Tati’s final film, “Parade,” was shot on video and then transferred to film. This commission for Swedish TV brought Tati back to his roots in vaudeville. A circus performs in a soundstage for a small audience. Instead of playing Hulot, Tati embodies the agile pantomime of his youth.
Tati constructed his entire soundtrack in the studio. He watched his pictures over a hundred times for any onscreen detail that could be integrated into his vibrant tableaux of humorous activity.
François Truffaut once wrote: “A Jacques Tati film is necessarily a work of genius a priori, simply because a single, absolute authority has been imposed from the opening to ‘The End’ credits.”
Tati remains, along with Chaplin, Keaton and the Marx Brothers, one of the great comic geniuses of the century. Decades after Tati’s death, the gates to Tativille remain open to all visitors.
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