Jacques Tati, di origine russa, si ispirò ai grandi mimi sbocciati
sull'onda dell'insegnamento di Delsarte.
Dal 1931 al 1945 calcò con successo le scene del "music-
hall" ispirandosi anche a Charlot e conquistandosi una larga popolarità
con le gag satiriche che vivacizzarono i suoi sketch muti.
Alcune di queste scenette vennero trasferite in cortometraggi diretti
da altri [On Demand un Brute (1934), da Clémènt]. Soltanto nel 1947 Tati
si decise a dirigere un suo cortometraggio, L'Ecole des Facteurs/ School for Postmen. L'esperienza gli servì da tirocinio per il primo
lungometraggio, la mediocre commedia
Jour de Fête/ The Big Day (1949), nel quale
si convertiva ai dialoghi.
In the age before cars became pervasive,
in the idyllic countryside a tractor slowly drags a wagon with the rides for
the local fair in honor of the patron saint.
A child follows it excited, and ducks and goat greet it into
town. The program for the holiday also includes a USA film, announced with
an elderly woman comments on the characters and events of the town.
Francois is the postman of this undistinguished small town like many others.
He rides his bicycle up the unpaved streets of the town.
He helps the men who are raising the flagpost in the main square,
especially since a goat has eaten the telegram that he was supposed to deliver
The merry go round start moving, the marching band plays music, the girls dress
up and come out of their homes. Francois embarrasses himself in several of
the booths of the fair, and eventually stumbles into a booth where the tv set
is showing a documentary on the automated USA mail system.
Eventually the day is over, and the night brings some quiet (although the
man of the rides, Roger, is flirting with one of the single girls, despite
his wife being in the wagon).
However, the mailman is now obsessed with the USA mail system. In the morning
the town folks make fun of his obsession. He only has an old bicycle to
modernize his system. He rides around town like a maniac, while people root
for him. He even anchors himself to a truck so that he can stamp the mail
while riding the bicycle. He cannot stop to help a man who has fallen into
the well. He drops letters in the most unlikely places, so that he doesn't
have to stop. The butcher cuts a package in half because Francois dumps it
on his cutting board while he's cutting meat.
Then he has to run after his bicycle that is rolling down the hill as if
drawn by a ghost. When he finally catches up, he ties it to the wall like
a horse. But then of course he forgets to untie it when he starts biking
again... And so on and on frantically, up and down the hills, causing
car accidents and doing acrobatic moves to avoid obstacles, and even passing
professional cyclists of the Tour de France, all the time
being hailed by the whole population, until he crashes in a pond and has to
be rescued by the old lady in her slow horse-drawn cart.
He ends up helping a farmer while a little child distributes the mail.
Roger's wagon leaves town, watched with melancholy by the girl who is in
love with Roger, while the town's men take down the flagpost. And everything
returns to its normal, idyllic state.
(The second part, after he decides to become "American", has by far the best
gags, and, not accidentally, is also the one with little or no dialogue,
just bodily farce).
Attento osservatore della vita di tutti i giorni, Tati costruisce le gag
del film come parodie (minuziose) di gesti e luoghi comune; ma non ha bisogno di creare situazioni
comiche, il suo lavoro consiste nello scovare la comicità nelle cose così come sono.
Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot/ Hulot's Holidays (1953), nel quale
conservò invece il semimutismo dei suoi spettacoli,
sfrutta l'abilità comica per un fine più serio: il personaggio
di Hulot, l'uomo qualunque parodiato da un abbigliamento austero ma
eccentrico (impermeabile svolazzante, cappello, ombrello e pipa) e dal mutismo
ostinato (pronuncia soltanto il proprio nome), che e` di fatto un anarchico
in una societa` sempre piu` irreggimentata.
Di film in
film Tati prende in esame un "ambiente", lo rivolta, lo disseziona, lo perlustra accuratamente,
servendosi sempre delle risorse limitate del cinema muto (non sonorizzato).
Crowds of people leaving for the summer holidays assemble at the train station.
The loudspeakers blast something totally senseless. When the train arrives,
they have to squeeze into the overcrowded cars. In the meantime an old
stuttering automobile is advancing in the dusty country roads. WHen it enters
a small town, it has to stop because the passengers are trying to board
an overcrowded bus,
including a nice young woman.
A dog sleeping in the middle of the street refuses to move
when the funny vehicle approaches. Other cars pass it at twice its speed.
The nice young woman traveling alone gets off the bus when they reach the beach.
Hulot arrives at a hotel in the same town.
Hulot is the stereotypical middle-class person, except that he is not
traveling with a companion.
At the beach a child wreaks havoc by using a lens to burn a rope that holds
Later the girlfriend of the girl arrives at the hotel, and Hulot helps her
carry her very heavy luggage.
Guests of the hotel dine and chat in peace until loud music explodes from the
room where Hulot has found a turntable. Someone turns the electricity off.
It turns out Hulot is not the nice man he appears to be: at the beach he
has fun causing all sort of trouble against random beachgoers.
Ordinary life proceeds quietly and slowly, but hides many small incidents.
Hulot is driving when he sees a man miss his bus. Hulot tells him to get in
and starts chasing the bus. His stuttering car has almost made it when the
car's top collapses and he ends up in a cemetery where a funeral is taking
He plays tennis (all dressed up in his usual attire) and is invincible.
The guests of the hotel play cards and argue. He goes horse riding with
the young girl. Then they dance dressed in fancy costumes. Most of the guests
of the hotel organize a picnic out of town. Hulot gives a ride to two ladies
but his car keeps dying. Eventually he has to push it down a hill, but doesn't
see a car in front of him: when his car hits it, both cars start rolling down
the hill with Hulot running between the two. His car ends up in the garden
of a mansion and he has to run away from the guard dogs.
One night Hulot enters a small hut and accidentally sets fire to the fireworks
that are stored in it, lighting the whole sky. The guests of the hotel wake up
and join in the party.
The following day the guests depart, bidding farewell to each other.
If many of the gags are outdated,
these films are actually frescoes of ordinary life in those eras.
Mon Oncle/ My Uncle (1958) catapulta Hulot, l'abitante di un quieto rione popolare
e amico dell'umile gente del vicinato, in una casa ultramoderna.
Hulot accetta tutto passivamente, come se qualunque cosa rientrasse nella
logica delle cose: mai un moto di ribellione, mai manifestare la propria
preferenza. D'altronde alla fin fine la sua personalità, per quanto
accondiscendente, risulta invincibile: i suoi "protettori" devono arrendersi
davanti all'evidenza della sua incapacità a vivere in un
A garbage collector on a horse-drawn cart collects trash, followed by a dog.
Four dogs roam the streets but only one enters a mansion, while the other
three stop at the gate. A woman still dressed in a robe helps a middle-aged
man in a suit and tie get ready to leave the house. Then the child comes out,
and gets into the car. No words are exchanged. This car enters the busy
streets of the city. The man drops the child in front of his school and
then continues to the gated parking lot of a factory.
In the meantime the garbage collector drops his load and then heads for a
market on his slow cart. He then walks to the top story of a building.
Hulot lives in a quiet suburb of humble middle-class families.
He is amused that his bird would start chirping every time a reflection from
a glass door sends a bit of light towards its cage.
Hulot picks up Gerard at the school
and walks back home.
At his home a guest has arrived, an elegant and beautiful woman, just before
Hulot walks in with the child. Hulot quietly disappears, avoiding the guest.
The man in suit and tie, Charles, returns home and is welcomed by his wife in their
perfectly organized home, equipped with the latest technological devices.
Hulot quickly retraces his steps to his neighborhood, which is noisy and messy,
where people are people and not robots.
At the factory Charles asks his boss (in a futuristic room)
for a job, not for himself but for his unemployed brother-in-law.
Having been accorded the favor, he calls Hulot, who clumsily manages to screw up
Hulot's sister receives the visit of her neighbor and takes the opportunity
to give her a tour of their futuristic house, furnished with objects
manufactured at her husband's futuristic factory.
The neighbor is no less vain, artificial and pretentious than them.
When he comes back home, her husband Charles is furious for what Hulot has done.
Hulot arrives on his bicycle, wearing his raincoat, an attitude that contrasts
sharply with the impeccable attire and demeanor of the family.
Their son is terribly bored and welcomes the visit of his funny uncle.
Hulot takes him out of the house, and lets him play with his mischievious
little friends (and he takes the blame for their practical jokes).
His sister thinks he needs a woman, and the neighbor would be the perfect
Unaware of the plot, Hulot is taking a stroll in his neighborhood, happily
chatting with his neighbors.
His sister throws a garden party with a few robotic friends and the neighbor.
Hulot arrives with his old bicycle. She tries very hard but the neighbor
is an absolute icy bore that Hulot's jokes cannot melt.
A leak in the pipes causes a little problem. One of the guests decides to
roll his sleeves up and fix the problem, and ends up digging a huge hole,
while the others move the tables and chair, and Hulot ends up in a pond.
A friend of the neighbor shows up with a dog that runs amok, and eventually
Hulot manages to get the leash stuck in one of the neighbor's earrings: then
he just hands the leash to the dog owner, as if handing him the woman herself.
The party is spoiled. Everybody leaves.
The usual routine resumes in the morning, with Charles driving the child
to school and then driving himself to work. The workers and the secretaries
start working frantically when they see his dog (a sign that the boss is
Hulot has finally been employed, although is falling asleep at his workplace.
A machine starts malfunctioning, producing tubes that look like sausages,
and Hulot doesn't know how to stop it.
In the evening the workers, including Hulot who has Gerard with him,
want to dispose of the bad tubes so the boss doesn't
realize the gravity of the mistake, and throw it in the river. A young man
thinks someone fell in the river and dives to rescue him. When he finds out
it's just tube, he thinks of a practical joke and runs after Hulot and the
others. Hulot takes his coat off to fight and... punches a passer-by.
By the end of the evening, however, they are all friends. Hulot and Gerard
are delivered to futuristic home in a horse-drawn cart. Gerard had the time
of his life.
In the meantime Charles and Hulot's sister are having their boring anniversary
dinner at a fancy restaurant. When they return home, they find Hulot sleeping
on the couch (a rather uncomfortable arching couch).
Hulot is indifferent to wealth, social status, modernity and employment.
Charles decides to send him to work in another region.
Charles and Gerard pick him up at his humble place,
and drive him to the station (where a myriad people show up with the exact
same suitcase, a metaphor for the individual lost in the mass).
Charles whistles to wave goodbye one more time to his brother-in-law, but
instead distracts a passenger who then hits a lamppost. Father and child
hide and laugh: they have finally become friends.
Il capolavoro di Tati,
Playtime (1967), è ambientato fra i grattacieli di una
Il mosaico di gag rende il senso della vita dell'umile ape nel
Qui Hulot assurge a don Quijote del futuro tecnologico, dove i mulini a vento si sono
trasformati nell'arsenale tecnologico della società consumista, un po'
il ruolo che Chaplin aveva assegnato al protagonista di Modern Times;
ma a differenza di quell'omino, Hulot è un borghese serafico, per nulla
ostile alla società, anzi perfettamente integrato in essa.
A group of foreign tourists, including Barbara, arrives at the airport.
Hulot emerges from the chaos of the tourists as a footnote, when he picks
up an umbrella that he has dropped.
In a futuristic megalopolis made of glass and steel,
Hulot enters a building and hands a piece of paper to the guardian, who then
presses buttons on a switchboard that makes funny noises.
This is the beginning of a mute Kafka-esque odyssey through a labirynth of
cubicles, offices and hallways in search of the person he has to meet
In parallel the foreign tourists are visiting the highlights of the glass
and steel towers, instead of the old monuments
(The famous monuments of Paris are sometimes shown in reflections
against the glass of doors and walls).
He is totally lost when he accidentally enters a trade fair
of bizarre high-tech household objects, where the foreign tourists are also
(Most of the dialogues and presentations are actually "background noise"
incidentally captured by the camera).
He and Barbara keep running into each other without realizing it.
He and Barbara even take the same bus. When Hulot gets off, he meets
an old friend who invites him to his flat. Hulot accepts and walks up to the
first floor of the building. The glass wall does not have curtains, and
the camera remains outside, showing the action through the glass, with no
sounds. In fact, the camera shows more than one apartment, up to four in
one shot. The lives of their inhabitants are public. The woman next door is
watching television and, when the camera moves exactly facing the wall between
the two apartment, it looks like she's staring at Hulot's friend getting
undressed in the other apartment.
Outside, among the people who are staring at the "transparent" apartments,
Hulot meets the very man that he wanted to meet in the office building.
Yet another friend takes him to a
Hulot è un eterno fanciullo dall'anima candida e inoffensiva, è
vittima inerme e consenziente dell'assurdità; cerca di capire il senso delle cose che lo circondano
senza riuscirci, ma non si ribella; chiede scusa e si adegua; la sua personalità viene repressa
quotidianamente dalla tecnologia che invade tutto lo spazio del pubblico e del privato mediante armi
subdole come l'automobile e gli elettrodomestici. Hulot è un essere totalmente passivo.
Elsewhere he staff is frantically fixing the last details of a
In a bakery Hulot meets another old friend, who now works as security guard
at that night-club. He insists that Hulot follows him, and Hulot walks straight
into the (transparent) front door and destroys it.
The foreign tourists walk into the same night-club.
However the experience is terrible because nothing works properly and the
waiters are inept.
As the crowd is dancing to tribal music,
Hulot mingles with the foreign tourists.
Hulot wreaks havoc, destroying part of the ceiling,
but also creates a more humane atmosphere.
Barbara volunteers to play the piano to replace the orchestra that left
after the ceiling collapsed.
Countless gags accumulate during this long scene (the drunk who keeps falling
from his stool).
Hulot leaves the restaraunt with the foreigners at dawn.
(Each scene is crowded, with multiple characters forming a loose group with
no particular center of attention, and often more characters viewed through
the glass walls in the background).
Hulot and Barbara walk on the sidewalks while the stores are opening,
and Hulot buys her some souvenirs.
It's time for her to board the tour bus that has to take the tourists back
to the airport. Traffic moves very slowly in a circle around a roundabout
(and the camera shows it from above, a perspective that makes it look like
a carousel). Finally the bus takes the highway to the airport.
It is night again when it reaches the airport.
The second part of the film abandons the futuristic motif of the first part
and becomes a more abstract game of psychological analyses.
Trafic/ Traffic (1971) mette in guardia dalla esautorazione
Il viaggio attraverso la Francia si tramuta in un'avventura picaresca
attraverso un universo caotico e concitato. Tati canta l'estignuersi dell'artigianato (che egli meglio d'ogni
altro regista francese rappresenta, con i suoi film rari e minuziosi) e satireggia il falso progresso e il falso
benessere della società moderna (ma non tanto le invenzioni in sé quanto la gente che ne
L'inventore di una superautomobile vuol presentarla a
un'importante esposizione annuale, ma, nonostante le prestazioni fantascientifiche del mezzo, non
può presentarsi in tempo perché numerosi imprevisti e incidenti ne rallentano la
Al di là del moralismo un po' retrogrado e semplicistico, questi film
sono ammirevoli dal punto di vista della quantità di gag create e del loro montaggio; un lavoro
che richiede a Tati anni d'impegno silenzioso.
Parade (1974) è un affettuoso omaggio al mondo del
cinema: è la cronaca di uno spettacolo durante il quale il mimo riepiloga i più celebri
sketch della sua carriera.
Dalla della nuova borghesia Tati è passato a visioni apocalittiche del
futuro, per finire nella denuncia della spersonalizzazione dell'uomo-massa.
Il personaggio di Tati è un anacronistico fallito, ancora legato ad un
mondo di sentimento e alla sua dignità di uomo.
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