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My goodness, that almost rhymes.

Anyway, I have never seen any Jacques Tati films, but it seems two of them -- M. Hulot's Holiday (1954) and Mon Oncle (1958) -- are being released by Criterion a week from now. I don't know that I would want to buy them sight unseen, especially given my current financial situation, but at the very least, I should rent them, eh wot?

Apparently another Tati film, Playtime (1973), was also released as a Criterion disc over two years ago, but it seems to be out of print now.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I haven't seen a Tati either, but after The Triplets of Belleville i'm much more interested, especially after taking a look at Doug's review.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Guest Russell Lucas

The Tati films are rereleases of previous Criterion editions. Their license expired, the discs went out of print, and now they've successfully renewed the license and the same discs are going back into production.

I really like the only one of those three I've seen-- Hulot.

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I highly recommend the first two. Great stuff. Mon Oncle has Tati playing Monsieur Hulot once again. It is perhaps not as accessible as Vacances, although I personally love it. The thematic mainstay is Hulot's frustration with the modern world, and Tati is always drawing attention to the clashing of the two worlds -- Hulot's old-fashioned, quaint world of simple pleasures, and the automated, technology-driven world of his relatives. Technology, in Tati's world, robs society and dehumanizes.

I would be cautious about Playtime: My memory of it is hazy, but I have a feeling I was not impressed with it.

The other essential Tati film is the pre-Hulot Jour de Fete.

Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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Originally posted by stef:

I haven't seen a Tati either, but after
The Triplets of Belleville
i'm much more interested, especially after
.

-s.

Thanks. That review whetted my appetite to see the film -- and I just realized Triplets of Belleville is the same film as Belleville Rendezvous, which I recorded last week, 'cos it looked interesting, though I knew nothing about it. Being a Tati admirer, I shall really look forward to watching it now.

Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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Yeah, Belleville is pretty cool (see the thread here), but I have to admit I'm not as familiar with French culture as I probably should be to get all the references and allusions.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Uh, I must say it is pretty anal to move discussion of older films to a different forum just because some of us happen to be seeing these films at home instead of in theatres. Please, I implore the powers that be, move this thread back to forum from whence it came.

Anyway, last night I rented M. Hulot's Holiday and watched it with a few friends, two of whom (a mother and daughter) are big Tati fans; we also watched the short film that Criterion included on the disc, but not quite as attentively. This is the first Tati I think I have ever seen, and it's definitely funny, though it doesn't grab me as much as, say, Blake Edwards' The Party. But that could be because I have heard people sing Tati's praises for so many years that I had somewhat loftier expectations than I should have had.

The Terry Jones intro was kinda funny, too, because he kept pronouncing Tati's name "Tatty", or "TAT-tee" -- I always thought it was supposed to be more like "tah-TEE". Can anyone here say decisively which is the more correct pronunciation?

And I repeat: Get this thread back in the "Films" forum where it belongs. The "DVD and Home Theater" forum should be for discussing technical things and perhaps straight-to-DVD releases, NOT films that were made for theatres and still get shown in theatres.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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If you try and say it with a French accent, the most obvious and natural pronunciation is "Jacques Ta-TEE".

Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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  • 1 year later...

Note to Vancouverites -- Playtime is coming to the Pacific Cinematheque March 31 - April 4.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 years later...

This is simply an ad for Chicagoans or for those who might find themselves in Chicagoland in February, or for those that might be willing to make a trip. I'm not a huge Tati fan, I couldn't finish the Playtime DVD... But I can see how it might be a whole lot better on the big screen, and chances for that don't come but once every few years. So here is your latest chance:

From February 6 through 24, the Gene Siskel Film Center, in collaboration with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, presents Monsieur Tati's Holidays, a series of six films by the great French comedy director Jacques Tati. These six films, presented in newly restored prints, represent all of Tati's features, including the four in which he stars as his most famous creation, Monsieur Hulot.

Tati (1907-1982) was born Jacques Tatischeff (his father was half-Russian) in a prosperous suburb of Paris. After leaving school at sixteen, he showed little interest or aptitude for anything besides sports. In the early 1930s, Tati's informal post-game impressions of rugby teammates evolved into café performances and eventually a music-hall mime act called "Sporting Impressions" (parts of which are reprised in Tati's final film, PARADE).

Between 1932 and 1947, Tati appeared in six short films (directing two of them) that only occasionally showed flashes of his distinctive comic genius. However, that genius was remarkably evident in his first feature JOUR DE FÊTE (1949), a rural comedy that became a surprise hit after being initially rejected by French distributors. Its success was topped by that of MR. HULOT'S HOLIDAY (1953) and MON ONCLE (1958), but the commercial failure of PLAY TIME, his most costly and radical film, left Tati bankrupt. His final two films, TRAFIC and PARADE, were more modest in scope, though far from inconsequential. Throughout his career, Tati was an independent who worked outside the mainstream of the French film industry, which helps to account for his small output, unconventional style, and meticulous, time-consuming perfectionism.

Tati's Monsieur Hulot, who ranks with Peter Sellers's Inspector Clouseau as postwar cinema's most memorable recurring comic character, is a tantalizing bundle of paradoxes and mysteries. Hulot has an indelible physical appearance (umbrella, pipe, raincoat, soft hat, too-short trousers, stooped posture, storklike gait) but an elusive personality. Biographer David Bellos notes, "From a day off (JOUR DE FÊTE) to a holiday by the sea (MR. HULOT'S HOLIDAY), and to PLAYTIME, Tati sought to celebrate leisure, not work, 'time out' and not his time 'in.'" Hulot is a man from nowhere, perpetually at leisure or in transit, defined less by what he is or what he does than by what he passes through and what happens around him.

Tati's innovatively de-centered perspective gives us not just a character, but a world, in which every part of the entire audiovisual field--edges, corners, backgrounds, objects, decors, sound effects, colors--is potentially activated and competing for our attention (which is why his films play so much better on the big screen). Watching any Tati film is an adventure in visual and aural perception. Though he is seemingly sui generis, his influence on modern cinema is enormous and ongoing. Among the filmmakers clearly beholden to Tati are Robert Altman, Wes Anderson, Roy Andersson, Rowan Atkinson, Blake Edwards, Aki Kaurismäki, Elia Suleiman, David Lynch (who called Tati "a kindred soul"), and Sylvain Chomet (who is currently completing an animated adaptation of a Tati script, THE ILLUSIONIST).

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 9 months later...

I caught up with Mr. Hulot's Holiday this evening. What a charming film. I was completely taken in by Tati's skill with the camera, with his ability to fashion mini-narratives as mostly unrelated comic scenes play out one after the other. And though the sequences play like a series of sketches, Tati is able to build to an affecting conclusion, one that underlines the film's appreciation for the strange creatures we humans actually are. There's a delight in humanity (and especially human frailty) here, not one that's dismissive of the human predicament, but rather a perspective of a gentle father, one who sees his children and shakes his head almost in wonder as they haphazardly try to make their way through life only to commit misstep after misstep. There's a gracious tone to this film that is endearing and winsome. I'm happy I saw it.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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Funnily enough, I also managed to watch M. Hulot the other day.

There's a gracious tone to this film that is endearing and winsome.

Yes. It's not an ambitious film, and doesn't reach for any grand themes, but there's a deep core of decency to it that's hard not to like. The influence of Chaplin seems pretty obvious, but with all the Chaplin I've seen there was always the threat of a sermon coming out of nowhere. M. Hulot isn't interested in preaching (and seems to take a stance of gentle mockery against would-be sermonizers). The focus is, instead, on the little pleasures like dancing or listening to music, all the little grace notes that break up the monotony of life. Part of me wants to object that this focus ignores the real problems in the world (I've more than a little of that ranting student in me)--but to insist on that is to miss the mark entirely.

My favorite parts of the film are the little touches: the squeaking door to the dining room, for instance. They come together to create such a beautifully realized world that one can't help but be taken in.

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  • 9 months later...

Anne and I watched Criterion's edition of Mr. Hulot's Holiday last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like there was a message, in that we hear a French government official making a speech about the important of avoiding frivolous behaviors and focusing on what is essential. Thus, it feels like it was probably a reaction against a lot of French cinema of the late '60s. I'm no film historian, but I suspect this movie really stood out as an exception, with its light-hearted lampooning of the upper class.

The whole movie is a celebration of frivolity and simple pleasures. I've already seen Playtime, and I imagine that I might have preferred Holiday if I'd seen it first. But I don't think this matches Playtime - Playtime is much more sophisticated and complicated, and it's more beautifully filmed. Hulot's Holiday is full of big laughs and great surprises (when the horse kicks the car near the end... that was such a perfectly executed stunt I had to watch it again just to see how the edit fooled me), but Playtime is just as funny and beautiful to look at.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Anne and I watched Criterion's edition of Mr. Hulot's Holiday last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like there was a message, in that we hear a French government official making a speech about the important of avoiding frivolous behaviors and focusing on what is essential. Thus, it feels like it was probably a reaction against a lot of French cinema of the late '60s. I'm no film historian, but I suspect this movie really stood out as an exception, with its light-hearted lampooning of the upper class.

The whole movie is a celebration of frivolity and simple pleasures. I've already seen Playtime, and I imagine that I might have preferred Holiday if I'd seen it first. But I don't think this matches Playtime - Playtime is much more sophisticated and complicated, and it's more beautifully filmed. Hulot's Holiday is full of big laughs and great surprises (when the horse kicks the car near the end... that was such a perfectly executed stunt I had to watch it again just to see how the edit fooled me), but Playtime is just as funny and beautiful to look at.

I'm so glad you loved the movie, Jeffrey. It's one of my very favorites. Holiday precedes the opening salvos of the New Wave by a few years, so I suspect Tati's film is more of a reaction to the deadly earnest political conversations that were occurring in France than to cinematic currents. I could be mistaken on this, though.

I totally agree that there's a powerful message within this film's frivolity. To quote briefly from the Top 100 blurb that I wrote last year: Tati's later work would become more complex visually...However, the seeds of subversion were already planted in Monsieur Hulot's Holiday: a bloviating political speech on the hotel radio is drowned out by Hulot's cacophonous record player, and including a neglected young lad in the merriment of a costume party is more important than his pompous father's ever-intrusive business calls.

Even more significantly perhaps, Tati's eye for the comical and ridiculous in everyday human behavior can help us slow down and see our world afresh. One of the actors from his final Hulot film (Trafic) stated it well: “So many funny things happen every day, but we don't pay attention. When you know Tati, you notice all the incredible things happening in the street.” Revolutionary, indeed.

Edited by Andrew

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I'm so glad you loved the movie, Jeffrey. It's one of my very favorites. Holiday precedes the opening salvos of the New Wave by a few years, so I suspect Tati's film is more of a reaction to the deadly earnest political conversations that were occurring in France than to cinematic currents. I could be mistaken on this, though.

Sounds very plausible. I'm looking forward to reading some scholarship on Tati's work now that I've seen two of his films and L'Illusioniste.

I totally agree that there's a powerful message within this film's frivolity. To quote briefly from the Top 100 blurb that I wrote last year: Tati's later work would become more complex visually...However, the seeds of subversion were already planted in Monsieur Hulot's Holiday: a bloviating political speech on the hotel radio is drowned out by Hulot's cacophonous record player, and including a neglected young lad in the merriment of a costume party is more important than his pompous father's ever-intrusive business calls.

Excellent.

Even more significantly perhaps, Tati's eye for the comical and ridiculous in everyday human behavior can help us slow down and see our world afresh. One of the actors from his final Hulot film (Trafic) stated it well: “So many funny things happen every day, but we don't pay attention. When you know Tati, you notice all the incredible things happening in the street.” Revolutionary, indeed.

That's why I love so many of my favorite films, from Wings of Desire to Code Unknown, although those films look closely enough to see very different kinds of things, from joys to heartbreaks. Come to think of it, it's why I love my wife's poetry. An Image reviewer called her a "curator of time"... and I like that a lot. Tati is a sort of "curator of time" too, only he collects the moments of playfulness, whimsy, and overlooked absurdity... and (here's the kicker) it's always done with affection, never with a sneer.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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That's why I love so many of my favorite films, from Wings of Desire to Code Unknown, although those films look closely enough to see very different kinds of things, from joys to heartbreaks. Come to think of it, it's why I love my wife's poetry. An Image reviewer called her a "curator of time"... and I like that a lot. Tati is a sort of "curator of time" too, only he collects the moments of playfulness, whimsy, and overlooked absurdity... and (here's the kicker) it's always done with affection, never with a sneer.

Nice - now that I think about it, this insightful affectionate gaze is a common thread through many of my favorites, from Ozu to Truffaut to Tati - heck, even in Lebowski I think the characters are looked on with more compassion that the Coens are commonly given credit for.

Anyway, I think you're spot on as regards Tati: he is clearly striving to influence his audience, revealing a more excellent way through Hulot's childlikeness and accidental anarchy, but it's done with a remarkable gentleness. Technology and busyness are shown to be dehumanizing, but Tati doesn't dehumanize his characters.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 1 year later...
  • 7 years later...

Do we really not have a thread devoted to Playtime? This is the only one I could find. I'm working on a long-form essay on Playtime and thought I'd check A&F to see what's been said. As Playtime is a nominee for the 2020 Top 100, I'd also recommend giving it a view (or re-view). It's a film I appreciate more ever time I revisit it.

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