Close Up

6 - 20 February 2016: Close-Up on Jacques Tati


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 relentlessly modernizing modern age. This retrospective gathers his six features – Jour de Fête, Les Vacances de Mr. Hulot, Mon Oncle, Playtime, Trafic, and Parade – along with four delightful Tati-related short films.  

Gai Dimanche
Jacques Berr
1935 | 22 min | B/W | DCP  

Gai Dimanche is a short film written by and starring Jacques Tati and his friend Rhum. The pair star as down-and-outs who try to generate funds by providing an impromptu leisure tour in a rickety bus they wrangle use of for free. Released in 1935 and rarely seen today, the film offers brief glimpses and hints towards methods Tati would begin to perfect in his films more than a decade later. read more

Soigne ton Gauche
René Clément
1936 | 13 min | B/W | DCP  

Soigne ton Gauche focuses on the training of a boxer, whose programme suffers considerable upheaval when he is joined in the ring by the ingenu Roger, played in inimitable style by Tati and bearing many traits of what would later become Hulot character. read more

L'École des Facteurs
Jacques Tati
1947 | 18 min | B/W | DCP  

L'École des Facteurs sees the birth of François the Postman, who would go on to reap fame in the feature film Jour de Fêteread more

Jour de Fête
Jacques Tati
1949 | 76 min | B/W | DCP  

In his enchanting debut feature, Jacques Tati stars as a fussbudget of a postman who is thrown for a loop when a travelling 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. read more

Les Vacances de Mr. Hulot
Jacques Tati
1953 | 84 min | B/W | DCP  

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. read more

Cours du Soir
Nicolas Ribowski
30 min | Colour | DCP  

In this Tati's evening class teacher is an amalgam of Hulot and Fançois, and in his demonstrations he allows both of these characters full rein, to great comic effect. read more

Mon Oncle
Jacques Tati
1958 | 111 min | Colour | DCP  

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 colour 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. read more

Jacques Tati
1967 | 125 min | Colour | DCP  

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 lovably old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a baffling modern world, this time Paris. With every inch of its super wide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting record of a modern era tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion. read more

Jacques Tati
1971 | 97 min | Colour | DCP  

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 "camping car" 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. read more

Jacques Tati
1974 | 84 min | Colour | DCP  

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. Created 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 theatre performer. read more