Jacques Tati

18 12 2011

Let’s see how many threads we can stitch together here…

So – I’ve previously mentioned I went to university in Durham, UK. Whilst there, I met several new friends and had my eyes opened to a much more varied and complex world than was hitherto apparent from the closeted existence I’d had in rural West Yorkshire. On one particular occasion I was asked to join a group to watch a film being shown by “The French Club”. Reluctantly I went along, more because there were girls attending than that I had any burning desire to get cultured. As it turned out, the film being shown was “Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot”, AKA “Mr Hulot’s Holiday”. This ecxcellent comedy is by the great Jacques Tatischeff, who more commonly goes by the name Jacques Tati. Though largely visual humour, and therefore not straining my schoolboy French too much, don’t be fooled into thinking this is mere Chaplin slapstick. There are some very subtle and endearing moments, as well as pointed caricatures of both English and American tourists abroad. I’ve since tracked down a few of his other films, but Les Vacances (1953) and his other well known film – Mon Oncle (1958) remain my favourites. OK, so there’s a thread. Just hang on to that for a moment.

Mon Oncle

Mon Oncle

A week or so ago, my good and most earnest friend Bunbury sent me a YouTube link to a stop-motion film by a couple from NYC. If you’re not already familiar with Marcel the Shell (with shoes on), now is your moment to correct things!


Marcel has a lot of great qualities. So that’s another thread. Hold that one in your other hand.

So then it turns out they’ve gained so much popularity with the positive self-image message of Marcel, that there’s now a book: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me. That’s another thread – hold it in your teeth.

Marcel the Shell

Marcel the Shell

I managed to locate and have a read of the book, and loved that the illustrations are actually all paintings. unfortunately I don’t recall the illustrator’s name and the internet is failing me right now!  :o(

Anyway…as I lovingly leafed through the pages, soaking in the details, I was stopped suddenly by one painted image of Marcel and his grandmother “at the movies” watching TV. The image on the TV looked strangely familiar. Could it be? Surely not! But it was!… Jacques Tati as l’Oncle with his young nephew on one of those motorised pushbikes once so common in France. At this point, you can tie all the threads together and see if you ended up with a Persian rug or just a kitten’s plaything.

Screen grab - Jacques Tati: Mon Oncle

Screen grab - Jacques Tati: Mon Oncle

Another thread for those in the know, is that Tati’s first recorded stage appearance in 1935 was seen by the writer Colette.




One response

19 01 2012
Quieter Elephant

According to this blog entry at “A Bostonian on Film”: http://bostonianonfilm.blogspot.com/2011/04/interview-with-dean-fleischer-camp.html it seems Dean Fleischer-Camp explicitly lists Jacques Tati as an influence! Kudos!

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