Frenchman Jacques Tati is largely remembered for his signature character, gangling Gallic goon Monsieur Hulot. But as a director, he was also a superb satirist and cinematic innovator, as this five feature boxset confirms.
Even his debut feature, the cosy, conventional country-fair comedy Jour De Fête was shot in Thomsoncolor, an early and, as it turned out, unworkable colour process.
For the near-silent Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot, plot is abandoned for a string of delicious sight gags and elaborate set pieces as his accidentprone hero unwittingly disrupts a seaside resort.
The mojo was also working for Mon Oncle, a stylish send-up of ’50s modernism. For the casual viewer, Tati’s obsession with the dehumanisation of progress, his gentle comedy and acute observational style peak here – Hulot turning a plastics factory into a web of bulging pipe.
By contrast, the gorgeously melancholy Play Time, his most ambitious work, demands attention to follow its stately comic sequences, though there’s a classic chase through a glassy office block. Parade, a raucous Swedish cabaret-circus, is a cheerful conceit to end with, though Hulot’s last hurrah Traffic might have been a better clincher.
Tip-top extras include an authoritative Play Time commentary, notes from Total Film contributor Philip Kemp, an intelligent bio-doc and a chat with a continuity supervisor, revealing Tati’s similarities with Roman Polanski. Not like that.
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