Sunday 12 May 2024

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune (Jean-Baptiste Péretié, 2022)

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune

Jacques Tati, tombé de la lune (2022) 

Directed by Jean-Baptiste Péretié

Jacques Tati needs no introduction but it is exactly the kind of "filmmaker who needs no introduction" that is worth revisiting repeatedly, in viewing, in film literature and now in the increasingly popular format of television documentaries. Jean-Baptiste Péretié, director of other works on Keaton, Al Pacino and John Wayne, has efficiently captured the jazzy architecture of Tati's universe in this fine introduction to a jolly genius.

An obsessive filmmaker –addicted to endless rehearsal, multiple takes, months of editing and mixing– Tati was a great documenter of the process of his work as the abundance of behind-the-scene footage used in this new documentary shows. (There's even a surprising moment of Tati with André Bazin, one of the first champions of Tati's work.) The film starts with Tati's 1958 trip to New York. Dressed as Monsieur Hulot, he walks down the Broadway like a skittish king. Americanism, already the inspiration for Jour de Fête and Mon Oncle, would feed his imagination for Playtime, for which an entire mini-city called Tativille will be built. Its construction –giving life to the greatest film ever– would also mark the demise of the man cruelly abandoned by an industry measuring artists by cents and dimes. Shot in 70mm, Playtime was his Magritte-like magnum opus of bowler hats, metallic blue surfaces and confused souls. Tati hid himself in the background and let his Bruegelian vision take over, with any passer-by becoming the protagonist, before we discover another potential hero in the same frame.  The failure of the film at the box office ruined his career, his finances and his health. Aware of the irredeemable loss, his final unfilmed script, called Confusion, was meant to open with the death of Hulot. But during his lifetime he didn't manage to free himself from the burden of Hulot and after his passing it just got bigger. A cinema of spontaneous combustions, Tati peered through and beyond the spotless façades and revealed human soul in sheer movement and optical illusion as no one else has done before or since.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

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