Mash Note Dept. : Jacques Tati

 
 
 

 
 
 

The universe holds a special place in its starry heart for comedians.

And at the core of its deepest heart, you will find Jacques Tati.

Jacques Tati was a filmmaker and a comedic actor— at least that’s how his biography is phrased.

His real vocation was pointing a stylized lens at the baffling post-World War II world, then inserting his own stork-tall, childlike visage at the center of it.
 
 
 

His magic knows no boundaries of date or age or time.

I first saw Jacquest Tati in M. Hulot’s debut film, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday  (Les Vacances de M. Hulot — 1953), which I watched with my husband.  (He saw the film as a child in a revival movie theater and loved it.)
 
 
 

Tati is most famous for his silent character, Mr. Hulot. 

What amazed me then, and now, is the clean cut of Tati’s movie, combined with the frivolous gestures that moves the action along.

Nothing in particular happens during Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, but there’s no fat, no self-indulgent noodling around by Tati as Hulot. 

Considering he also directed this film, it stuns me how tightly wrought the movie was, and is.
 
 
 

 
 
 

The undergarments of comedy are built of daily tragedies

Hidden details of Jacques Tati’s life invoked new speculation in the last two years, due to the posthumous animated film The Illusionist (L’Illusionniste).

The recent film is based on a buried script penned by Tati, but made by animator/cinematographer, Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville).

The release of The Illusionist brought up a lot of unsavory questions about Tati and his first romance— which resulted in a child he never saw.  

Those old, resurfaced rumors intimate that this script was Tati’s apology to his first daughter, but it is, as many things are, utterly unverifiable.
 
 
 

I watched twenty minutes of The Illusionist and had to stop. 

While Tati’s original films put a baffled man at the center of a baffling world, The Illusionist takes a darker turn. The Illusionist puts an unnamed performer in a world that does not need him anymore.

These days, I am not interested in the story of someone who no longer belongs to this world.

And if I am going to read, watch, or listen to the story of a man displaced by modernity, please show me the comedic moment— take me deeper into the truth inside the truth.
 
 
 

Laughter is keyed to open those hard locks.  Give me laughter.

Give me Tati’s Mr. Hulot, trying and failing to understand the nuances of the fresh and unfamiliar.

Let me see his wide eyes once more, blinking wonderfully at a future filled with the bright gadgetry of distraction, and then, I will laugh.

And I think you will laugh too.

Mr. Hulot is familiar. Mr. Hulot? He is us.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

BLUEBIRD LOVE NOTE: *This is driving me nuts, but I am going to need one more day to get things squared away. I really, really, really bombed out my computer. I mean, I screwed up root user permissions and everything. This is the stuff my worst writing nightmares are made of.

I am going to the Apple Genius Bar sometime on Tuesday, and meanwhile, I will be scrubbing every last bit of code out of my Mac today, as well as getting some writing done, and hopefully, talking to you. Thanks for your patience. I know this is ridiculous, so I do appreciate your levity and your kindness. — Courtenay Bluebird.

This story was originally published on April 25, 2012. I adore Jacques Tati. I hope after reading this you’ve found a little space for him in your heart too.
 
 

About Courtenay Bluebird (Bluebird Blvd.)

Courtenay Bluebird is the creator of Bluebird Blvd. and The Bluebird B-Side. She is a published writer, career journalist, and professional photographer who likes books and sweets. She laughs loudly and sincerely both in public and in private.
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26 Comments

  1. Very interesting – thanks.

  2. Beautifully written-the last two paragraphs gave me chills-not easy to accomplish in this old man lol-another movie to the list-we had fun watchin’ “They Might be Giants”-fer a young Bluebird ya got a wide knowledge of Music & Film-thanks fer passin it on…

    • Thank you, D.U.! I think you and the missus would LOVE Mr. Hulot’s Holiday! Me?!? A wide knowledge of music and film for my age? (*Turns a funky pink*) THANK YOU! It’s my pleasure to share what I learn, really and truly.

  3. I second DU – you’re pretty cluey for a young’un ;) I haven’t come across M. Hulot before although the name of Jacques Tati does kind of ring a bell. Now I’m going to have to try and find that movie and see for myself :) Merci!

    • Thank you! Je vous en prie! I have to credit most of my clued-in-ness to my local library system, which has a 25 item limit. (A limit I test all of the time!) :) I think you’re going to love Tati, honestly. He’s so modern! Yaaaay!

      • De rien :) Je vais chercher M. Tati. Tout suite!

      • I hope you do find M. Tati’s work easily and quickly! YAY!

        Aaaaand we have now reached the part in my rusty French where I will start to say things like “I am you the pleasure to know now!” Four years of French, ACF! I can ask you for a beverage and I can tell you that I do not understand. (Actually, I can understand a basic conversation pretty well, and I can read, some, very, very slowly.)

        I’ve been thinking about joining the local French language group for years. Please do keep speaking to me in French! S’il vous plaît!

      • lmao – mine is 30 years rusty! It is a beautiful language though so why not study it some more?

      • I loooove languages. Especially French and Spanish. I don’t have that native gift for absorption. But I am, ah, what is the word? Shameless. The word I’m looking for is shameless. I’ve been using my terrible French more this year, as well as my terrible Spanish. I think studying one, then the other, is just on the horizon, Meeks!

      • Muy bueno???? Sorry that is scraping the bottom of the barrel of my Spanish. -hugs-

      • *Snort-laugh!* Mine isn’t much better— and I live in a bilingual part of the States! And everyone in my family— but ME— speaks basic conversational Spanish. My husband is fluent. Ah, remember when I said I studied French? Well, I studied Spanish v. young. When I took French, I lost the Spanish. Typical. I’m always setting things down and forgetting where I leave them. Even languages! (Hugs!)

      • lol – just goes to show my ignorance. I knew that Louisiana was the place for French but I didn’t realise that there were parts of the States where Spanish was so prevalent. Maybe you’re just bucking the system by learning French :p

      • I actually DID buck the system by taking French! It was considered a pretty rebellious subject— Spanish is considered to be the more practical subject here. So much so, that you forget how beautiful Spanish is, due to the emphasis placed on its practicality. The kids who took Latin? That was beyond the pale!

  4. I always learn so much from your posts. The fact that they are so magnificently written is bonus.

  5. Ah, I remember seeing ‘Jour de fete’. Thanks for the reminder, must revisit his films.

    • I think, visually, you are going to (re)love what Tati does with the medium. I learn so much from the way he approaches comedy and design. He makes them speak to each other!

  6. I’ve heard the name but never saw him in action. Now I’m going to have to find his movies somewhere. Bad Bluey. :)

    • MEEKA! You are going to LOVE him! Jacques Tati was the comic genius that bridged the gap between Harold Lloyd and Peter Sellers. He’s a huge inspiration to a lot of comedic writers, filmmakers, actors. Start with Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday), then watch Playtime, I think. Every big filmmaker went to see Playtime because it was, and is, so clever. “Les Vacances” was the model for Mr. Bean’s Holiday and a couple of others— you see where this is going right? OooOOOOOOh! (I know I’m naughty, but this is the good kind of naughty, right?)

      • Aaaah! I had no idea Jacques Tati’s work was so influential. Now I really have to find Les Vacances somewhere. :)

      • No worries— there’s so much to know and do and see and love in the world right now that we’ll always find some great person or thing that’s been around forever that we’ve never heard of before. For instance, lately I’ve been geeking over the composer Benjamin Britten. Ever heard of Benjamin Britten? (I bet you have!)

      • Hmmm… WP ate my reply. It’s not showing as sent so I’ll repeat that I did not know Tati was so influential and that I will definitely find Les Vacances somewhere. :)

      • Weird! I’ve got it here! And… oh, hold the phone. Why are all of my comments missing all of a sudden?

      • I sorted it out. There’s this one plug-in creator who I’ve used a few times to my own detriment. Every time I add something he’s made, something breaks on my site. No more of that nonsense! Thanks for letting me know, M.! I wouldn’t have caught it otherwise! Sheesh.

  7. I’ve been really into standup comedy lately. Probably a different brand of humor than what you’re describing, but so necessary nonetheless. There’s some combination of darkness and light that I crave and love.

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