Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Jacques Tati Collection

Jour de fête (1949)
Jour de fête is my first Jacques Tati movie. I had no idea how he looked like before, but I think I have seen that Postman's face before. It looks familiar, like Jean Bouise in Mort d'un pourri, they remind me of some characters in Tintin. That moustache is so French. The first 10 minutes of Jour de fête is boring. It shows a fair is being prepared. Then The Postman appears and things begin to look interesting. To avoid a falling flag pole, he and his bicycles goes into a café, and the next second we see the café's owner throws his bicycles out, while the Postman standing on the 2nd floor. The Postman works slow, but it doesn't mean he is lazy - he often stops to help the villagers. After watching an American movie about postmen (which is actually compiled from unrelated events), he is persuaded to work fast. He rides his bike so fast that I thought: 'What is this? Tour de France?' and the next thing I saw was he was joined by bike racers.

Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)
Not much dialogues in this movie. M. Hulot arrives in a seaside resort, and what follows is the funny things happen around him. He is not a trouble maker, so if he causes troubles, it's not by intention. Compared to other comedy movies, this is a calm film, with quiet jazz music sometimes, a noisy Dixieland a couple of times, sound of a swing door and bangs from an old car. During the movie, M. Hulot only says one word: 'Hulot'. While other movies of same genre often end with a chase, I don't remember there is one in this. M. Hulot looks a lot like Stephen Fry to me. I love the scene of a tiny boy who buys 2 cones of ice cream. He is so short what when he is paying, the seller cannot see him. With one cone in one hand and one cone in the other, he slowly climbs stairs. His eyes move from one cone to another to maintain balance. When he turns the door handle, I bet most audience will hold their breath. Will he drop the ice cream? The scene is something we see everyday, yet it's like watching a thriller. I think most people cannot take their eyes off the dough in the ice-cream cart as well - will it fall to the ground?

Mon oncle (1958)
This 3rd film is even better. It's more silent than silent movies, because silent movies use background music all the time. I remember Jean-Pierre Melville immediately. Mon oncle has minimalist style and grey colour dominates the movie, especially in the Arpels' modern house and the office. Again Tati plays M. Hulot and in this movie his sister, Mme Arpel, is introduced. She and her husband are rich and they live in a big house, with no paintings and portraits on the wall. The house is almost empty, except for modern furnitures and appliances. They like to show off, because the fish fountain in the front garden is only switched on if there are guests around. Their son Gérard adores his uncle, even though M Arpel thinks M Hulot is useless. Now I really know the meaning of a movie which can make us relax. No need to think, but just sit back and enjoy. No hurried pace and this makes us think of naughty things we have done as children as we are watching Gérard and his friends. I love the location of M. Hulot's flat, which is a long walk from the front door: a long and winding passage. I also love the opening credits, where the names of the crew are written in building site signage.

A funny scene from Mon oncle: for a dog, a dead fish's face is an enemy

PlayTime (1967)
I have to say that the first half of this movie bores me. PlayTime has less plot than the previous 3. The colour is great, dominated by grey/silver, almost like black and white, giving the whole movie a neat look. First we see American tourists arrive in Orly, then M. Hulot in a modern office building. It's like we are sitting, waiting, in the airport and the office, watching other people who do funny things. When it comes to the restaurant scene, the movie only gets my interest. A new restaurant just opens and the guests are so many that the waiters, who mostly are new, cannot cope with their job. The drugstore is interesting, very different from our pharmacy here. French drugstores has a bar. I've seen this before in The Sicilian Clan: Monique Sartet works in a drugstore and Jeanne buys an orange juice there. One of the brilliant scenes in PlayTime is the dancing feet of a busy travel agent (or an information guy?).

Parade (1974)
This is like a circus show we see on TV, with Tati as the host. He shows numbers of pantomimes, in which he began his career. There are also other performers, like jugglers, magicians, and clowns (without the costumes, they jump over a pommel horse).

Among all 5, in my opinion Mon oncle is the best. It has a great colour and nice plots. I think PlayTime is more an experiment, so I don't enjoy it as much as I enjoy the previous 3.

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