Category Archives: Directed by Jacques Tati

Jour de fête (1949, Jacques Tati)

It’s about fifteen minutes before lead (and director) Jacques Tati appears in Jour de fête. The film opens with a travelling fair arriving at its destination and starting to set up. Paul Frankeur and Guy Decomble are the two main fair workers–actually they’re the only fair workers with anything to do except Santa Relli as Decomble’s wife. Besides starting to set up the merry-go-round, Decomble has time to make eyes at local girl Maine Vallée. Delcassan plays another resident, an old woman who narrates the goings on for the benefit of the audience–and, presumably, the goat she’s always got with her. The device is rather charming. Tati usually employs long shots, letting the action play out gradually, individual elements building until they intersect–for example, Tati, as actor, gets introduced in dialogue when Relli sends Decomble to mail a letter instead of making eyes at Vallée.

Jean Yatove’s music perfectly accompanies the gentle action.

Tati–as actor–arrives as some men are trying to put up a pole for the fair. Decomble and Frankeur are on the sidelines, offering unhelpful commentary, then draft Tati into action. He’s a bicycle postman, he gets around, he should know how to put up a pole. For most of the film, Jour is a series of intricately connected vingettes. Tati and cowriters Henri Marquet and René Wheeler occasionally pause one vignette to move on to another–Tati’s postman is easily distracted, whether by putting up a pole or getting blasted at the café, making the movements organic.

There’s a lot of physical comedy and callbacks to previous gags. Tati introduces himself biking into town and battling a bee. As he moves, in the distance, across the frame, the bee jumps forward to pester the farmer who’s in the foreground of the shot, before returning to Tati as the bicycle moves past the farmer. There’s a lot of subtle, inventive shots. There are also some obvious sight gags, which usually work–and manage to be charming thanks to the filmmaking and, particularly, the music–but are still kind of cheap.

After introducing Tati’s postman and getting the fair setup on track, the film jumps ahead a bit–with Delcassan offering some more commentary–as the townspeople head to square for the fair, which includes a cinema. The cinema becomes important later. Before it does, however, there’s a lot more with Tati. He can’t refuse the multiple invitations to drink at the café, culminating in Decomble and Frankeur–in a genial malice–getting him incredibly drunk. Sober, Tati’s postman is scatterbrained. Blasted, he’s wholly incompetent.

In between some of the drinking, Tati sees a short film in the cinema showing the U.S. postal service, which implements all the latest technology to deliver the mail. Latest technology like helicopters and skydivers and stunt motorcycles. How can the French compete. Especially since Tati spends the rest of the day in the bar before heading out at night to finish his deliveries. The townspeople have gone to bed, leading to multiple complications, before Tati just passes out drunk.

The next day, however, he’s invigorated and ready to show off how fast he can deliver the post. No surprise, Decomble and Frankeur have given him multiple bad ideas on how he can increase his efficiency.

Tati’s wild ride–which includes some incredible physical comedy and elaborate action direction–happens about an hour into the film’s ninety minute runtime. It doesn’t take the whole last third, but most of it. It’s always inventive, always amusing (or better), but somewhat detached from the rest of the film. Jour’s no longer about the townspeople or the fair, now it’s all Tati and the hyper-speed mail delivery.

Tati, as director, brings it all together for the finish but far less organically than anything else in the picture. The long sequence works–Tati’s hitting familiar places populated by now familiar faces–but it doesn’t fit with the rest. The wrap-up is well-executed, effective, closes all the open threads, but is far from seamless. It treats Tati’s wild ride as a tangent, while the rest of the film built up to the wild ride as though it were the intended result.

So a disjointed–while still more than adequate–finish.

Wonderful direction from Tati throughout. Great composition, great pacing, whether he’s setting up for comedy or narrative–though, really, it’s always both. Mostly excellent cinematography from Jacques Mercanton and Jacques Sauvageot. The day-for-night is somewhat lacking but the content makes up for it. Similarly, Marcel Morreau’s editing only has any hiccups when they’re trying to get goats and chickens to behave.

Jour de fête is superb. Sure, the last third has its problems, but they’re masterfully, sublimely executed problems.



Directed by Jacques Tati; written by Tati, Henri Marquet, and René Wheeler; directors of photography, Jacques Mercanton and Jacques Sauvageot; edited by Marcel Morreau; music by Jean Yatove; produced by Fred Orain and André Paulvé; released by DisCina.

Starring Jacques Tati (François), Guy Decomble (Roger), Paul Frankeur (Marcel), Jacques Beauvais (Bondu), Santa Relli (Germaine), Maine Vallée (Jeannette), and Delcassan (Old biddy).


Mon Oncle (1958, Jacques Tati)

Mon Oncle has a concerning amount of narrative. Way too much of the film is about Jean-Pierre Zola and Adrienne Servantie’s bourgeois ultra-modern couple fretting over their son’s affection for his uncle, played by writer-director Tati.

Tati’s protagonist does not live in the automated home of Zola and Servantie, but in a quainter, more traditional part of the city. There are these lovely sequences–Suzanne Baron’s editing and Jean Bourgoin’s photography are magnificent–with a pack of dogs running between new and old. It’s one of Tati’s best repetitions in the film.

The story takes place over a few days (or at least gives that impression). Over that time, Zola gets so fed up with Tati, things just have to change. Except all of these exasperating situations are contrived, whether it’s Zola trying to get Tati a job multiple times or Servantie trying to set him up with a woman. The nephew, played by Alain Bécourt, follows Tati around but they don’t have a relationship. The film’s best relationship is probably Tati and his young neighbor, Betty Schneider. She’s becoming a young woman (and does by the end of the film, which makes no sense since it takes place over a few days) and their relationship is adorable.

Uncle goes on and on, with Tati filling the lackluster second half with lots of somewhat cheap gags. He never uses Henri Schmitt’s sets to full potential.

The first half’s good, but when it needs to progress, it flops.



Produced and directed by Jacques Tati; screenplay by Tati, based on a story by Tati, Jacques Lagrange and Jean L’Hôte; director of photography, Jean Bourgeon; edited by Suzanne Baron; music by Franck Barcellini and Alains Romans; production designer, Henri Schmitt; released by Gaumont.

Starring Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot), Jean-Pierre Zola (Charles Arpel), Adrienne Servantie (Madame Arpel), Alain Bécourt (Gerard Arpel), Lucien Frégis (Monsieur Pichard), Betty Schneider (Betty, Landlord’s Daughter), Jean-François Martial (Walter), Dominique Marie (Neighbor), Yvonne Arnaud (Georgette) and Adelaide Danieli (Madame Pichard).


Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953, Jacques Tati)

A certain amount of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday is pure slapstick. Except it’s slapstick through director Tati’s decidedly careful lensing. Tati holds the shot on the slapstick punchline a beat too long, giving the viewer time to consider the joke, the punchline, and his or her amusement. Far from condemning slapstick, Tati shows how it would function in “real life.”

Without Tati’s Hulot moving through the film, set in a small beachfront vacation town (principally the adventures of one hotel’s tourists, along with some renting a house nearby), the world would lack anything fantastical. But with Tati bumbling about? Regardless of whether the guests appreciate it, he makes their visit far more memorable.

From the guest perspective–Tati, as director, mostly follows Nathalie Pascaud’s attractive young woman who gets attention from all the fellows but finds Tati a calmer companion–Holiday is about social mores laid atop this beautiful getaway location. The cost of modern tranquility. The guests aware of these constraints–Pascaud, Valentine Camax’s Englishwoman (who thinks Tati’s a hoot), René Lacourt’s patient husband character–slowly become the core supporting cast. There are a lot of memorable characters, but Tati concentrates on the ones who can see the seams on their social agreements.

Besides some bigger set pieces, Tati also has some great small ones. Almost everything at the hotel is standout, with Tati gleefully introducing chaos into an otherwise controlled setting. His success juxtaposing Pascaud with his own character is breathtaking.

Gorgeous score from Alain Romans.

Holiday is divine.



Directed by Jacques Tati; written by Tati and Henri Marquet; directors of photography, Jacques Mercanton and Jean Mousselle; edited by Suzanne Baron, Charles Bretoneiche and Jacques Grassi; music by Alain Romans; production designers, Roger Briaucourt and Henri Schmitt; produced by Fred Orain; released by Discifilm.

Starring Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot), Nathalie Pascaud (Martine), Micheline Rolla (The Aunt), Louis Pérault (Fred), André Dubois (Commandant), Suzy Willy (Commandant’s Wife), René Lacourt (Strolling Man), Marguerite Gérard (Strolling Woman), Raymond Carl (Waiter) and Valentine Camax (Englishwoman).




Forza Bastia (2002, Jacques Tati and Sophie Tatischeff)

Forza Bastia chronicles a day in Bastia (France). A Corsican island. It’s an important day because it’s April 26, 1978, when Bastia (the soccer team) played PSV Eindhoven. Bastia was an obscure team and the first leg (I had to learn soccer terms) was a tie at zero.

Jacques Tati shot Bastia at the time, but never finished editing it. His daughter, Sophie Tatischeff, came in and fixed it. The result is a very uneven, very long (twenty-seven minutes) collection of footage. If Tatischeff did carry through with Tati’s intent, then he intended Bastia to be boring and not insightful.

It’s about a big deal football match. Of course people are going to be acting weird. Nowhere in any of the footage does Tati (or does Tatischeff) find any moments of real human observation. It’s all obvious, even the quirky stuff.

Forza Bastia should’ve been shorter, would’ve been better.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Jacques Tati and Sophie Tatischeff; written by Tati; directors of photography, Yves Agostini, Henri Clairon and Alain Pillet; edited by Florence Bon and Tatischeff.