We knew from the Criterion Collection that Wes was involved in a Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) retrospective at the Cinémathèque française in Paris, “Jacques Tati, deux temps, trois movements.” (2 April – 8 August).
In a short essay for the catalogue to the Paris exhibition on Tati’s life and career, Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited; The Royal Tenenbaums) says that Tati, as actor and comedian, stands comparison with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. “He has a silhouette that you can make into a cartoon; just his walk is a great creation,” he says.
As for Jacques Tati’s importance as a film-maker, both Anderson and David Lynch (Twin Peaks; The Elephant Man) point to his unconventional and pioneering use of sound. This may seem surprising. There is hardly any dialogue in Tati movies. Much of his humour seems to be visual, based on elaborately devised gags developed from his early days as a stage comedian and mime artist. (Tati was also, as a young man, a talented professional rugby player, a second row forward for Racing Club de Paris in the French first division.)
Anderson says Tati’s elusive use of snatches of half-heard conversation and the repetition of strange or suggestive noises were decades ahead of their time. Lynch points out that a large part of the humour and oddly melancholy atmosphere of Monsieur Hulot or Mon Oncle are created by soundtracks that audiences scarcely notice. Jacques Tatischeff was born into a Franco-Russian family in Paris in 1907. His mother was of Dutch origin, something which, he claimed, shaped his meticulous approach to comedy. “It is almost impossible to make the Dutch laugh,” he once said.
The catalogue is available on amazon.fr. If you have additional information about this event, please contact edwardappleby @ yankeeracers.org.