Though he made only a handful of films, director, writer, and actor Jacques Tati ranks among the most beloved of all cinematic geniuses. With a background in music hall and mime performance, Tati steadily built an ever more ambitious movie career that ultimately raised sight-gag comedy to the level of high art. In the surrogate character of the sweet and bumbling, eternally umbrella-toting and pipe-smoking Monsieur Hulot, Tati invented a charming symbol of humanity lost in a constantly modernizing modern age. This set gathers his six hilarious features-Jour de fête, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon oncle, PlayTime, Trafic, and Parade-along with seven delightful Tati-related short films.
JOUR DE FÊTE
In his enchanting debut feature, Jacques Tati stars as a fussbudget of a postman who is thrown for a loop when a traveling fair comes to his village. Even in this early work, Tati was brilliantly toying with the devices (silent visual gags, minimal yet deftly deployed sound effects) and exploring the theme (the absurdity of our increasing reliance on technology) that would define his cinema. Here, Jour de fête is presented in three versions: the original 1949 black-and-white release, a 1964 version featuring hand-painted color sequences and newly incorporated footage, and the full-color 1994 rerelease, which finally realized Tati’s original vision for the film.
MONSIEUR HULOT’S HOLIDAY
Monsieur Hulot, Jacques Tati’s endearing clown, takes a holiday at a seaside resort, where his presence provokes one catastrophe after another. Tati’s masterpiece of gentle slapstick is a series of effortlessly well-choreographed sight gags involving dogs, boats, and firecrackers; it was the first entry in the Hulot series and the film that launched its maker to international stardom. We are presenting Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday in the 1978 rerelease version, reedited by Tati himself, along with the original 1953 theatrical version.
Slapstick prevails again when Jacques Tati’s eccentric, old-fashioned hero, Monsieur Hulot, is set loose in Villa Arpel, the geometric, oppressively ultramodern home of his brother-in-law, and in the antiseptic plastic hose factory where he gets a job. The second Hulot movie and Tati’s first color film, Mon oncle is a supremely amusing satire of mechanized living and consumer society that earned the director the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. This edition features both the original French release and My Uncle, the version Tati created for English-speaking audiences.
Jacques Tati’s gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in an age of high technology reached their apotheosis with PlayTime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the loveably old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modern world, this time Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, PlayTime is a lasting testament to a modern era tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.
In Jacques Tati’s Trafic, the bumbling Monsieur Hulot, kitted out as always with tan raincoat, beaten brown hat, and umbrella, takes to Paris’s highways and byways. In this, his final outing, Hulot is employed as an auto company’s director of design, and accompanies his new product (a camper outfitted with absurd gadgetry) to an auto show in Amsterdam. Naturally, the road there is paved with modern-age mishaps. This late-career delight is a masterful demonstration of the comic genius’s expert timing and sidesplitting knack for visual gags, and a bemused last look at technology run amok.
For his final film, Jacques Tati takes his camera to the circus, where the director himself serves as master of ceremonies. Though it features many spectacles, including clowns, jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, and more, Parade also focuses on the spectators, making this stripped-down work a testament to the communion between audience and entertainment. Made for Swedish television (with Ingmar Bergman’s legendary director of photography Gunnar Fischer serving as one of its cinematographers), Parade is a touching career send-off that recalls its maker’s origins as a mime and theater performer.
Jacques Tati’s career, which stretched from the mid-thirties to the late seventies, encompasses more than just the six features for which he’s best known. The charming short films he wrote or directed are essential parts of his filmography as well. Collected here, they include three wacky 1930s comedies he wrote and starred in-On demande une brute (1934), Gai dimanche (1935), Soigne ton gauche (1936)-and the two later films he directed and starred in: L’école des facteurs (1946), which introduces the postman character reprised in Jour de fête, and Cours du soir (1967), made during the filming of PlayTime. We’re also pleased to present Forza Bastia (1978), a soccer documentary begun by Tati and completed by his daughter Sophie Tatischeff after his death, and Dégustation maison (1978), Tatischeff’s César-winning short, shot in the town from Jour de fête.