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Tati shorts

Posted by martinteller on December 12, 2014

I decided to skip revisiting Trafic and Parade for now, but I did want to tackle the shorts included in the Tati box set.  First up is On demande une brute (Brute Wanted), directed by Charles Barrois, written by Tati and Alfred Sauvy.  Tati stars as a hen-pecked would-be actor who unwittingly gets roped into a wrestling match against the formidable “Krakov”.  The most interesting thing about this is that you can already see how Tati doesn’t make everything about him.  Tati has his share of business to do, but it’s Enrico Sprocani (also known as the clown “Rhum”) who bails Tati’s character out of his predicament.  There are a few decent gags here, reminiscent of Harold Lloyd, but overall it’s not that entertaining.  Rating: Fair (65)

Rhum returns for Gai dimanche, directed by Jacques Berr, co-written by Tati and Rhum.  They play a pair of drifters who concoct a half-baked money-making scheme to give tours of the countryside.  The gag with the car doors is a sign of things to come with Tati and his attention to modern “conveniences” that never work the way they’re meant to.  Otherwise, some okay bits, but nothing that’s going to knock your socks off.  It’s a fine slapstick short, but the characters don’t feel defined enough.  Rating: Fair (65)

These next three are all revisits for me, though it’s been a number of years.  Soigne ton gauche, in which Tati plays a farmhand who gets recruited as a boxer’s sparring partner, is a big improvement… unlike the first two, this one elicited a few chuckles.  Tati is given a lot more room to use his physicality, and although the gags are a little sparse, they hit their mark.  The film also benefits from a more talented director, René Clément, who knows how to use framing and movement to make the shots more interesting.  Rating: Good (74)

It’s been nine years since I last watched L’école des facteurs in its entirety, but it’s featured so heavily in the box set supplements that I felt like I’d seen it a dozen times already this week.  This is, of course, the short that introduces the postman character who would later be showcased in Jour de fête.  It’s also Tati’s first movie as the sole director.  I thought I’d be a little tired of the gags after seeing them so many times in the bonus features, but actually I enjoyed this a lot more than the feature-length film that followed it.  I think probably because it’s too short to get as tiresome.  Nice and compact, with some funny and inventive bits.  The beginning of Tati’s critique of modernization, and the ways we cope with it.  Rating: Good (75)

Cours du soir was written by Tati (and partially shot on his magnificent PlayTime set) but it was directed by Nicolas Ribowski.  We first see Tati in his traditional Hulot garb, but after he enters a classroom and removes the iconic hat and coat, we learn that he’s an acting teacher.  Which is really just a showcase for Tati’s mime talents.  There’s a tennis sequence that brings M. Hulot’s Holiday to mind, and a scene that’s designed to look like an outtake from L’école des facteurs… even switching to black and white for effect.  Tati’s skills are evident and his routines are polished, but it’s also kind of tedious.  A little bit sad, too, like he’s clinging to a past glory (even though he was in the middle of his creative peak).  It just doesn’t work that well.  Rating: Fair (62)

Dégustation maison doesn’t directly have anything to do with Tati.  But it was directed by his daughter, Sophie Tatischeff (Jacques shortened his name for showbiz) and was shot in the same small town as Jour de fête (I also wonder if the dachshund is a tribute to Mon Oncle).  The short involves a bakery where the locals gather… like a bar, because we gradually learn that all the pastries contain liquor.  It’s pleasant and it builds nicely, but it’s still pretty much one joke.  Rating: Fair (69)

Forza Bastia features footage shot by Tati in 1978 in the town of Bastia, Corsica.  It was the first time that Bastia’s soccer (sorry, FOOTBALL) team had reached the finals of the European Cup, playing against the Dutch Eindhoven team.  Tati never finished editing it, but his daughter gathered all the footage and cut into this 27 minute film.  Soccer (sorry, FOOTBALL) is the most boring sport in the universe, as evidenced by the fact that the match featured here ends in a score of zero to zero.  So the movie wisely focuses more on the collective madness of the fans who, hailing from a culturally and economically insignificant hunk of rock in the Mediterranean, treat the event as if it was the most important thing that ever happened and proof of their superior standing in the world.  They eventually lost to Eindhoven, at which point I can only presume that the entire city of Bastia committed mass suicide, Jonestown style.  Now that I’ve had some fun being a dick, I will say it was somewhat interesting to watch them deal with a waterlogged field, charmingly attempting to sweep the water into buckets using ordinary brooms.  Otherwise, this final effort in Tati’s career is mainly just a curiosity.  Rating: Fair (60)

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One Response to “Tati shorts”

  1. mountanto said

    Okay, the Jonestown comment was pretty hysterical. And to hell with sports.

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