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Jacques Tati, the idiosyncratic French comedian/writer/director, won the 1958 Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film for Mon Oncle (1958). In the second of three films featuring his character, Mr. Hulot, Tati satirizes a world increasingly dominated by technology, and its effect on the hapless Hulot.
Tati honed his comic skills in French music hall and cabaret, as a mime performer. Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) introduced Tati's gangling, umbrella-toting alter ego. Tati was so meticulous that each of his films took several years to prepare, shoot and edit; he directed only six features. His films have been called "pure cinema," emphasizing visual humor and sound effects, with very little dialogue. And Hulot has been compared to the creations of the great silent comedians, particularly Chaplin's Little Tramp, and the acrobatic characters of Buster Keaton, Tati's idol. Mon Oncle, in fact, has been dubbed "Tati's own Modern Times."
In accepting his Oscar® for Mon Oncle, Tati paid tribute to the silent film comedians whom he so admired. "If Hollywood had not done so many funny pictures, I would not be here tonight. For all those great comedians, I am not the uncle, but the nephew." In fact, the highlight of Tati's trip to Hollywood was not the Academy Awards® ceremony, but a visit he paid afterwards to Mack Sennett, the producer of many of those silent comedies. Sennett invited Harold Lloyd, Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton to meet Tati, and the French comedian was thrilled when Keaton expressed his admiration "that I hadn't let myself be made a prisoner of the talking film. I'd simply improved on silent techniques."
Sadly, it was Tati's scrupulous attention to planning and preparation, and the resulting long gaps between films, along with his problems in raising funds that ended his career. His next two films, Playtime (1967) and the following one, Traffic (1971), both failed to earn back their high costs, and Tati was ruined financially. He directed only one more film before his death in 1982. But the legacy he left has earned him a place in the pantheon of the great film comedians.
Producer: Fred Orain, Jacques Tati
Director: Jacques Tati
Screenplay: Jean L'Hote, Jacques Lagrange, Jacques Tati
Production Design: Henri Schmitt
Cinematography: Jean Bourgoin
Costume Design: Jacques Cottin
Film Editing: Suzanne Baron
Original Music: Franck Barcellinni, Alain Romans
Cast: Jean-Pierre Zola (M. Arpel), Jacques Tati (M. Hulot), Adrienne Servantie (Mme. Arpel), Lucien Frgis (M. Pichard), Betty Schneider (Betty, Landlord's Daughter)C-117m.
by Margarita Landazari