NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art
presents a 10-film retrospective of the French screenwriter, director, and actor Jacques Tati (born Jacques Tatischeff, 1907-1982), in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters from December 18, 2009, through January 2, 2010. Jacques Tati features newly struck 35mm prints of his six feature films, including beautiful restorations of M. Hulots 'Holiday' (1953), 'Mon Oncle' (1958), and 'Playtime' (1967); his long-dreamed-of colorized version of 'Jour de fête' (1949), the revelatory 'Traffic' (1971), and the little-seen 'Parade' (1974); as well as three short sketch comedies. Complementing these is Claude Autant-Laras rarely screened wartime fantasy 'Sylvie et le fantôme' (1945), in which Tati gives a charmingly spectral performance. The retrospective is organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.
One of cinemas greatest comedians, Tati was also one of its most radical modernists. As a director, his experiments with sound, color, and image, and with language, design, and technology, are a fundamental, if often overlooked, bridge between the innovations of Buster Keaton and Max Linder in the silent era, those of his contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, Marguerite Duras and Robert Bresson, and filmmakers today who owe much to his style and humor, from Roy Andersson to Wes Anderson, Otar Iosseliani to Elia Suleiman, Takeshi Kitano to Sylvain Chomet.
As many critics have observed, Tati the actor plays the straight man to an absurdly comical world. With his loping, springy gait, he plays a man, M. Hulot, who has no discernable ambitions, yet who always seems to be at the ready with his raincoat and his highwater trousers, his pipe and hat, and a fishing rod or umbrella in hand. And M. Hulot always seems to be alone in a crowd, whether at a seaside resort or in a steely modernist office building, stuck in a traffic jam or returning to his salad days of pantomime on the circus stage.
Tatis mise-en-scène has been compared with that of a Breughel painting (Raoul Dufy is equally apt): through long-take, deep-focus, all-over tableaux, a Babel of languages, and the burbling eruptions of machines gone haywire, he creates an entire cosmos, a meticulously choreographed chaos in a Cartesian world, and a singularly new, transformative, and democratic way of experiencing the moving image. In this way, as in so many others, Tati celebrates the importance of being playful.