Jacques Tati (born Jacques Tatischeff) was a French filmmaker. Throughout his long career he has worked as a comic actor, writer, and director. In a poll conducted by Entertainment Weekly of the Greatest Movie Directors Tati was voted the 46th greatest of all time. With only six feature-length films to his credit as a director, he directed fewer films than any other director on this list of 50. With the exception of his first and last films, Tati played the gauche and socially inept lead character, Monsieur Hulot. With his trademark raincoat, umbrella and pipe, Hulot is among the most memorable comic characters in cinema. Several themes recur in Tati’s work, most notably in Mon Oncle, Playtime and Trafic. They include Western society’s obsession with material goods, particularly American-style consumerism, the stressed environment of modern society, the superficiality of relationships among France’s various social classes, and the cold and often impractical nature of space-age technology and design.

Jacques Tati Films at Avvantura Film Festival

Jour de fête (aka Festival Day, The Big Day) (1949) is the title of a film comedy. Jour de fête tells the story of an inept and easily distracted French mailman who frequently interrupts his duties to converse with the local inhabitants, as well as inspect the traveling fair that has come to his small community. Influenced by too much wine and a newsreel account of rapid transportation methods used by the United States postal system, he goes to hilarious lengths to speed the delivery of mail while aboard his bicycle.

Les Vacances de M. Hulot (1953) is a comedy film starring and directed by Jacques Tati. It introduced the pipe-smoking, well-meaning but clumsy character of Monsieur Hulot, who appears in Tati’s subsequent films, including Mon Oncle (1959), Playtime (1967), and Trafic (1971). The film gained an international reputation for its creator when released in 1953. The film was very successful as it had a total of 5,071,920 admissions in France.

Mon Oncle (“My Uncle”) (1958) is a film comedy. The first of Tati’s films to be released in colour, Mon Oncle won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a Special Prize at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film, receiving more honours than any of Tati’s other cinematic works. The film centres on the socially awkward yet lovable character of Monsieur Hulot and his quixotic struggle with post-war France’s infatuation with modern architecture, mechanical efficiency and American-style consumerism.

Playtime (1967) is generally considered to be his most daring film. In Playtime, Tati again plays Monsieur Hulot, by 1964 when the film was shot, Tati had grown ambivalent towards playing Hulot as a recurring central role. Unable to dispense with the popular character altogether, Hulot appears intermittently in Playtime, alternating between central and supporting roles. Shot in 70 mm, Playtime is notable for its enormous set, which Tati had built specially for the film.

The Parade (1974) is Tati’s last film and it portrays a circus show in which Tati also stars. Men, women and children are slowly sitting down to their places in the tent and are excitedly waiting for the magic to begin. The presenter is addressing the audience and soon the acrobats, the clowns and the singers are coming out.