An Interview with Jacques Tati

Jacques Tati visits Marlon Brando on the set of One-Eyed Jacks, 1961

Studs Terkel was a great fan of film, as evidenced by his many discussions with filmmakers, actors, and critics; and during his career he traveled to and recorded interviews in a variety of locations around the world. In 1962 Terkel visited Paris; while there, he stopped at Jacques Tati’s Spectra Films for a conversation. They discuss Tati’s film Les Vacances de M. Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday), and also the nature of humor, the difference between popular and “art” films (is there one?), conformity, making mistakes, the challenges Tati faces in distributing his films, and humanity in the age of machines. They also reminisce about Tati’s earlier visit to Chicago. Thanks to the great folks at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

Jacques Tati gave the following interview at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1977—a full four years after he had made his last film (unless we are counting Forza Bastia, his documentary short from 1978)—hence enabling the director to talk comprehensively on his life’s work. Nearly all of his films are included and discussed here in substantial detail, and Tati’s charming film personae seems to mirror his actual, generous demeanor. He comes across as a man that is, unsurprisingly, replete with the joy of making an audience laugh. This interview is available on the BFI’s Jacques Tati Collection, definitely worth checking out. —Samuel Tunningley, The Seventh Art

Excerpts from the documentary Once Upon a Time… Mon Oncle. Jacques Tati explains his methods of filmmaking, with reference here to his parody of modernism in the 1958 film Mon Oncle. David Lynch remarks on the significance of sound effects in Tati’s films.

Though he made only a handful of films, director, writer, and actor Jacques Tati ranks among the most beloved of all cinematic geniuses. With a background in music hall and mime performance, Tati steadily built an ever-more-ambitious movie career that ultimately raised sight-gag comedy to the level of high art. In the surrogate character of the sweet and bumbling, eternally umbrella-toting and pipe-smoking Monsieur Hulot, Tati invented a charming symbol of humanity lost in a relentlessly modernizing modern age. This set gathers his six hilarious features—Jour de fête, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon oncle, PlayTime, Trafic, and Parade—along with seven delightful Tati-related short films. —The Complete Jacques Tati

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