The Cinema of Jacques Tati

Tati made only 6 long-feature movies during his career. The past two weeks I saw 4 of them (his major works):

1. Mr Hulot's Holiday (Les Vacances de Mr Hulot), 1953. It announced the famous character of Hulot (played by Tati himself), a straight-forward "physical" comedy. Tati was heavily influenced by the silent cinema and by his training as a mime on the theaters of Paris. In most of his movies you can subtract the dialogue (usually distant and unheard) without effecting your experience.

2. My Uncle (Mon Oncle), 1958, was his biggest hit. It followed the same character (Hulot, now very popular amongst the French audience) but touched a deeper level socially and instead of studying random characters (like in Holiday) it contrasted two "worlds" in Paris: the simple, peaceful world of Hulot (vivid colors, sunny skies, happy soundtrack) to the modern, grayish, noisy Paris (where his sister and her family belongs).
The first scene to introduce Hulot's house is a hilarious one:

On the opposite side, the famous sophisticated Villa Arpel, notice the lady running to turn the fountain on to show off, and the funny "S" road encounter

The cars/traffic scene also in Mon Oncle:

3. Play Time (1967) is the work of an artist gone mad (in a good way). Using the money generated from his two previous very successful movie, his production company (also called Mon Oncle) came out with a 70 mm wide-screen movie about a futuristic Paris (tativille, made for the movie) of metal and glass. what was a shrinking world in Mon Oncle (the world of Hulot) had completely disappeared and it seemed that Tati lost all hope in civilization. Tati himself was getting tired of "Hulot" and he wanted to phase him out of his cinema (but he wasn't able), instead he played games during the first 10 minutes of Play Time when few random characters appear in the airport, bus, streets...etc they dressed and walked like Hulot. By the time Hulot appears he is soon to be lost again. Play Time is visually stunning and it is Tati at his extreme comedy and cynicism.
the cubicles at the bank:

Watching TV

The movie is filled with visual jokes and dark humor most of it happening in the background. Tati often plays his scenes with multiple events happening at the same time in the same screen (Play Time gets better at the second or third watch)

Tati orchestrates his movies, especially in Mon Oncle/Playtime/Trafic. Geometry and Architecture is dominant in his visuals:

4. Trafic (1971). After the massive failure of Play Time at the theaters and Tati's bankruptcy, he had to "compromise" by going back to the narrative style of Mon Oncle. Trafic was in fact not even close to the latter substance or style.

Even in his weaker work, he always had a strong sense of observation to the most ordinary things in daily life... nose picking in cars (above) and the hilarious windshield wipers scene (both from Trafic)

I highly recommend watching Tati's major two works: Mon Oncle and Play Time (in that preferably in that order. PLay Time is a MUST

Gian Maria Volonte - Alias Indio - For a few Dollars more


Max Schreck

Technically, his name is Count Orlok, but everyone knows that it’s really Dracula. Still the creepiest and most memorable portrayal of the character. Yeah, Klaus Kinski gave a better performance, but he was more pathetic, and it was really just a riff on this. Enjoy:



Vincent Price

I forgot that Vincent Price had played a Disney villain in a movie called The Great Mouse Detective, sort of like what Professor Moriarty would be were he an anthropomorphic rat. His Professor Ratigan was, of course, one of the better villains, thanks to Price, and along with Robin Williams in Aladdin, the best star performance in a Disney film.

The overall movie isn’t good, but Price steals every scene he’s in, and makes it worth watching.

Top 16 most evil Disney villans

One of several online lists.


More Headless Horseman

I seemed to remember that Dan’s clip was Disney, and a quick Google search reveals that it’s from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Most of it was quite lame, but the actual ending is pretty good—although it’s nowhere near as outright terrifying as Pinocchio. Still, it’s good enough to nearly redeem the silly song that precedes it.

Good, but not really scary. This is still their scariest:


'The Headless Horseman"

Was this Disney? If so it's a shame that it tames a great horror tale.

The Scariest Scene in All of Disney

Needless to say this isn’t exactly what you think of when you think Disney. I mean, was any other Disney film as scary as this one…at least for children? This is why this one is easily the best. Many people think children can’t handle this shit; in truth, they love it. This film actually assumes children’s intelligence and treats them like adults, in both cases unlike most of the other films Disney produced. I mean, this guy is fuckin’ scary, even as an adult! In fact, I’d actually forgotten about this scene until I rewatched my VHS today, and it sent chills up my spine…and I’m a perfectly normal healthy adult! Many people say that that creature at the end of Fantasia is the Devil—I disagree. The Evil Coachman from Pinocchio is the Devil…and here’s the proof

I mean, WOW! For a long time, there’s been debate over who the greatest Disney villain is. The debate is now officially over. The Evil Coachman is the best/worst Disney villain, hands down. No one else can top him. He is a force of pure evil…and unlike many other Disney villains, he survives! He survives and nothing happens to him! He continues gleefully and sadistically being the Devil, without any comeuppance! I’m surprised the Hays Code didn’t go on Disney’s ass for this! WOW!

It’s sad they never went this dark or this scary again, in 70 years since this terrific film came out. They really had something going here.

More “Dumbo”

I agree with Dan’s statement that Dumbo is one of Disney’s better films—although Pinocchio is still the best by far—and here’s the best scene from that film:

Really, it is to Dumbo what Pleasure Island is to Pinocchio. This scene really pushes it over the edge, and without it, it wouldn’t be half as good.

EDIT: As an avowed and proud alcoholic, I can officially state that that was not just alcohol. I have no idea whether it was mixed with cannabis, LSD, or what, but it wasn’t just alcohol.


Baby Mine-Dumbo & His Mommy

Other than Pinocchio, this and Bambi were the only Disney films I liked as a tot.


Disney’s “Pinocchio”

Generally, I’m not a fan of Disney, but there’s always one film of theirs I’ve loved very much…Pinocchio. Perhaps it’s because it’s the only film of theirs that doesn’t promote a nauseatingly sweet, sunshiny view of life. In fact, the world it portrays is quite corrupt and cruel. With the exception of the four main characters we meet in the first twenty minutes—Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Geppetto, and the Blue Fairy—all of the characters are scum. They’re either con artists—Honest John, hoodlums—Lampwick, abusers—Stromboli, and simply downright evil—the Coachman. Not a nice, Disneyesque world at all, really. I still have the 1985 VHS release, and before writing this, I actually popped into the VCR to see if it still works after being watched at least a billion times—it does. It’s rundown and worn out, but it works, amazingly enough. At any rate, here’s one of the most famous scenes from the film, if you really wanna see how it differs from later Disney films:

As an interesting side note, I’m betting this movie started my trend for feeling sorry for young punks named Alex. You know who I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, this film wasn’t a box office success when it came out for whatever reason, and thus Disney decided to revert to the insipid formula of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for later films, instead of Pinocchio, which is actually far better for both children and adults. However, they did incorporate the film’s song as the theme music for the entire company, and allowed its lyrics to become their slogan. Here it is:

15 years of aging www.theheadshell.com

This one reminds me of the old film, The Time Machine.


Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.

On the Smoke theme.

Smoke - Auggie's photo collection

An underrated film starring Harvey Keitel; and this is its best moment.

Jack Palance’s Kick-Assery!

I now hereby decree that Jack Palance is officially the coolest, most kickass old guy ever. Reagan and John McCain are fuckin’ pussies! Here’s the link since the fuckin’ Academy decided not to allow embedding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGxL5AFzzMY. Just let it be said that I couldn’t do that when I was 18; he’s fuckin’ 73!


Taxi Driver Theme Music

Bernard Herrmann.

More Film Composers

However, as great as John Williams is, I don’t believe he’s the greatest film composer of all time. That’d be Nino Rota. I won’t go into detail, because I think the diversity, quantity, and quality of great film scores speak for themselves.

Great music and hot chicks! Double whammy!

OK, eye candy for Jess here.

Rota’s music gives the ending here to Nights of Cabiria a quality comparable to Chaplin’s City Lights that I don’t think it’d really have without it.

And as an addendum, I’ll include what is inarguably Rota’s most famous piece, although you’ve certainly heard it before a million times, and you really don’t need to hear it again:\

No wonder Francis Ford Coppola insisted on him for The Godfather—apparently, Robert Evans didn’t like Rota, the same way he didn’t like Brando, Al Pacino, setting it in NYC during the postwar era, the Sicily sequences, the three-hour running time, etc.!


Here’s Rota’s great uncharacteristic score for Fellini Satyricon:


Superman The Movie 1978 - Opening Sequence And Theme

In light of Geoff's last post, my fave Williams song is the Superman Theme. This was my FAVORITE movie as a kid. Like, this and Superman II I watched 100s of times.


Great Scores, Awful Films

I've long believed that one of the greatest of all film composers is John Williams. Yet, with a few exceptions, he seems to have made a career out of doing great epic scores for truly terrible films. Star Wars is the classic example. Just listen to this:

This is one of the greatest leitmotifs in film history. Yet is serves a film every bit as cheesy- in terms of script and dialogue- as Plan 9 From Outer Space. Yet it's undeniably a great, beautiful and powerful piece that does convey a sense of heroism in a distant time and place.

Here's another great John Williams theme:

Again, you get the sense of magic, awe, and wonder that should accompany such a piece...but the film it accompanies is simply mediocre kiddie stuff. Better than Star Wars, but still...

And finally, here's a theme I'm sure you'll all recognize instantly:

This for a lame B-movie even worse than Star Wars! The dialogue's a little better, but it still sucks. But again, it's a rousing action/adventure theme that rivals even the kickass "James Bond THeme"! It also has a sense of romantic heroism that the Bond theme doesn't. But the character it accompanies is a cardboard cutout with the charisma of a styrofoam cup.

John Williams is almost always great, but I can't think of another film composer who regularly writes such great and memorable music for such awful films. Maybe Hans Zimmer...but that's a story for another essay.

Picnic At Hanging Rock Trailer


Kiarostami's "Certified Copy"

Certified Copy is Kiarostami's first narrative movie outside of Iran. An interesting story surrounding the meeting between an English art critic (Opera singer William Shimell) and an art dealer (Juliette Binoche) and a fan of his latest book about the authenticity of art. Soon after the two strangers start wandering the streets of Tuscany an unexplained tension rises between them accompanied by sparse hints thrown in their dialogue that may link them together in the recent past. Things become more confusing when a waitress at a coffee shop mistakes them for a married couple.

Kiarostami's story echoes the book the art critic is promoting: Real life Vs. art as copy of that life. In the Q & A section that followed the screening (I saw it at the NY Film Festival) Binoche noted that Kiarostami told her that the story of the movie (an event that supposedly happened to him) with all details, but to her surprise he finished his story by asking her "why if I made all this up? would this take from your (Binoche) experience as a witness (audience)?".
Like in Close Up and Taste of Cherry before, Kiarostami is playing the game of cinema (or art) within reality and vice versa. The result would have been much MUCH better had he made more effort to close some major narrative gaps in his tale. Kiarostami -under the excuse of engaging the viewer- still have the bad habit of leaving major holes in his narrative; something that has a rebound effect on the viewer who realizes that all effort to "make sense" out of the story is futile. Another weakness in the movie is Binoche's acting itself: at times cartoonish and at the level of hollywood love dramas/comedies.

Copie Conforme (the french title is a more accurate than the english Certified Copy, since "Certified" stands for the legal aspect of the copy but the French "conforme" stands for the "physical" matching of the copied art) is far from a failure or a major disappointment when compared to Kiarostami's oeuvre (unlike the latest Tarr or Ceylan). It is actually a good movie. Kiarostami's humor in this movie (mostly based on social observations) is very similar to Kieslowski's in his last trilogy.
Style-wise it has no sound track, very simple cinematography with few face close-up shots.

Insect Woman (1963) [Trailer]


Laff-a-Lympics Intro

This crap show I recall from the mid-70s. Really bad.