Jacques Tati, by David Bellos

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The Independent Culture

Jacques Tati was a unique figure in cinema despite his slender output – only half a dozen films, including Monsieur Hulot's Holiday and Mon Oncle. Though there have already been several biographical studies, Bellos's perceptive portrait scores by incorporating a richly informative critique of Tati's oeuvre.

Jacques Tati was a unique figure in cinema despite his slender output – only half a dozen films, including Monsieur Hulot's Holiday and Mon Oncle. Though there have already been several biographical studies, Bellos's perceptive portrait scores by incorporating a richly informative critique of Tati's oeuvre.

Born Tatischeff in 1907, Tati was a successful music-hall mime in the inter-war years. Left without an audience in 1945, he turned to film. Through detailed analysis, Bellos explores the genesis of Tati's great creation, the well-meaning, but frequently disastrous, Monsieur Hulot. Though Tati's comedies could almost have been silents, they became increasingly ambitious and critical of modern urban life. His penultimate film, Playtime, was so grand in conception – it involved building a vast city-like set – that it resulted in his bankruptcy.

Personally, Tati remained entirely modest. A typical story concerns his meeting with De Gaulle, who hadn't the faintest idea who he was. " Mon Oncle," whispered a functionary, so the President promptly congratulated Tati on his brilliant nephew.

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