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Jacques Tati, Coast to Coast

The Auteurs Daily


"The Museum of Modern Art's retrospective of the French screenwriter, director, and actor Jacques Tati (born Jacques Tatischeff, 1907–1982) features newly struck, gloriously restored 35mm prints of his six feature films," brags the Museum, and well they should: "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, Playtime, Mon Oncle, his long-dreamed-of colorized version of Jour de fête, the revelatory Traffic, and the little-seen Parade - along with three short sketch films." The series runs through January 2 and Jordan Hruska (T Magazine) notes that, architecturally, "MoMA is a perfect venue" for it, while Nicolas Rapold (Voice) notes that it follows "the huge Cinémathèque Française exhibition" and: "Besides a 1936 René Clément short with gangly Tati as a farm boy recruited for sparring (sports-based routines were initially his specialty), MoMA also shows the delightful Cours du soir (1966), shot during Playtime downtime, in which Tati presides at a night school for pratfalls and mime. It's quite an education, but then, Tati was always good at training us all as observational comedians."

Next stop, the Bay Area. In Berkeley, the Pacific Film Archive's Playtime: The Modern Comedy of Jacques Tati runs January 14 through 30 while, in San Francisco, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Jacques Tati: Genius of French Comedy (January 21 through February 11) features "the US premiere of The Magnificent Tati," notes Michael Guillén, "a compelling brand-new documentary by Michael House that explores Tati's career from his roots in the Parisian music-halls of the 30s to his rise and ultimate fall from grace after the release of his masterpiece Playtime. An eclectic range of interviewees (including admirers Mike Mills, Frank Black and Sylvain Chomet) pay testament to his genius, and a wealth of clips make this an essential accompaniment to the retrospective."

For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS). Keep an eye, too, on the current lists and awards tracker; also updated recently have been the Manny Farber index-like collection and entries gathering tributes to Robin Wood, Dan O'Bannon (scroll down) and Jennifer Jones.

Updates, 12/22: Mr Hulot's Holiday "is likely the purest distillation of Tati's aesthetic," argues Brian Darr. "It's a film in tune with the elements: wind, water, sand, etc. The director gets great comic mileage out of the most seemingly insignificant things, like the sound a door makes when opening and closing, or a tennis swing, or the tide rolling onto the shore. But don't take my word for it. Who better to talk about a French filmmaker than the most influential French film critic, André Bazin? Thankfully, his essay on Tati and Mr Hulot's Holiday has been translated into English by Bert Cardullo and was published at Bright Lights Film Journal with a substantial introduction by Cardullo earlier this year."

"After sitting in the dark with any of these movies the rest of your shopping day in Midtown is bound to be a lot more interesting," suggests Eugene Kotlyarenko (Interview). "You might find yourself entranced by the glide of the escalator, seduced by the sound of cash registers, or even adventuring crosstown on a crowded bus."

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