French director and actor, b. 1908 d. 1982. Born as Jacques
Jacques Tati remains as one of the greatest big screen
comedians of all times, right next to Charles Chaplin and Buster
Keaton. His characters rarely spoke and he had fabulous timing and body language.
He was a master of slap stick. He is perhaps most widely known for the character
Monsieur Hulot, a man who wreaked havoc onto everything purely by his
presence. Tati only made six films, but has despite that taken a place at the
very top in comedy history.
Tati started out as a mime, impersonator and variety artist,
and he became a quite popular one. He made his first feature film in 1949,
called Jour de Fete, in which Tati played a postal worker trying to improve
his working situation through modern inventions. This is a common theme in
Tati's films; the introduction of cutting edge modern science and technology
in the life of ordinary people, and the conflict that arises. He never ceased to
criticize automation and de-personalization. Jour de Fete won prize for Best
Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival.
His next film introduced the pipe-smoking, raincoat wearing,
umbrella carrying Monsieur Hulot in Les Vacances de Ms Hulot - Monsieur
Hulot's vacation, which came in 1953. Bearing resemblance to more recent
characters such as Mr Bean and Basil Fawlty, this very
ordinary man gets in trouble where ever he goes. This film became an
international hit, and Tati was Oscar nominated for Best Screenplay. One of
the things that made Tati's films special was the sound effects. They played
an important part of the films, since there were not much dialogue in them, and
it often takes several viewings to catch all references and sounds.
His next film, his first in color, was Mon Oncle - My
Uncle, 1958. Much like Chaplin in Modern Times, Tati paints a picture of technology
gone too far, with inventions for its own good, not for the people who use it.
With his usual stone face, Monsieur Hulot misuses and abuses every mechanical
device within sight, and nearly completely destroys the automatic house that
his relatives live in. For My Uncle, Jacques Tati was awarded and Academy
Award for Best Foreign Film. Being a thorough man, it took eleven years
before his next film was released, Playtime in 1967. This 70 mm film was
highly decorated and well liked by the critics, but the audience weren't as
easily impressed, and the film was a big let down financially. Tati himself took
this very personally, and would never really regain his confidence.
He only made two more films, only one of full length;
Traffic. Released in 1972, it deals with the auto industry and the impact of
cars on people's lives. Parade two years later was a mock-documentary filmed
in Stockholm, a silent comedy where Tati follows two children behind the
scenes of a circus. Tati himself performs some of his old variety numbers, in
this plot-less film.
- Parade (1974)
- Trafic / Traffic (1971)
- Playtime (1967)
- Mon oncle / My Uncle, Mr. Hulot (1958)
- Vacances de M. Hulot, Les / Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953)
- Jour de fête / Holiday (1948)
Reference: NE, IMDB, All Movie Guide