July 16, 2014


In the Criterion Collection’s efforts to bring masterpiece films to Blu-ray, one upcoming release announced this week should be on the radar of fellow Spy Vibers. The Complete Jacques Tati is a 12-disc set, beautifully designed by David Merveille, that includes all six of Tati's movies, as well as seven short films and many special features. One piece that may be of interest is a spotlight on the fashion, furniture, and architecture of Mon Oncle. Tati had a true gift of pantomime humor and social commentary, and his films will appeal to fans of international cinema and Mid-Century Modern design. Criterion will release Blu-ray and DVD box sets on October 28th, 2014. Here are some of Merveille's covers and concept sketches. Story continues below.

My two favorite Tati films are Mon Oncle (1958) and Playtime (1967), where the director used his alter ego, Monsieur Hulot, to examine and poke fun at the mid-century fascination with modernity and technology. Tati studied the architecture of airports, offices, supermarkets, and other public institutions during his promotional trips for Mon Oncle, making observations that informed Playtime. In Playtime, Hulot enters an architectural labyrinth, like a modern-day Thesius, and makes his way through a variety of humorous situations. The 70mm photography of Paris buildings and interiors alone is worth the price of admission, especially knowing that Tati's crew built the sets (and actual buildings!) from glass, plastic, wood, and concrete over a production period between 1964 and 1967. The set was dubbed "Tativille." They constructed beautifully modern spaces, vast with long hallways, glass walls, cubicles,  escalators, and decorated the sets with minimal furniture and props that often became the source of his humor. To trim the budget, Tati used cutout extras for crowd shots, who stood in the background to "interact" with live extras.

In one famous scene (see video below), Hulot accompanies a friend home where he lives with his family in a kind of department store window. We watch from outside, as they sit, chat, and watch TV as a kind of public spectacle  Soon their actions appear to interact with the neighbors (in a facing shop window). It is a wonderful, quirky comedy play on consumerism and the isolation of modern lifestyles- not to mention a foreshadowing of the voyeuristic nature of contemporary reality show entertainment and films like The Truman Show (Peter Weir/1998) and The Model Couple (William Klein/1977).

Tati's films are mostly without dialog and the humor is quite charming. If you saw the fabulous animated film The Triplets of Belleville (itself a tribute to Tati), then you will know what to expect. Much of Tati's humor in Playtime is based on sounds- the sounds of people moving within and interacting with modern spaces and technologies. There is a fantastic essay on this over at Spectacular Attractions. If you read French, check out the Tati exhibit of sets, sketches, models, props, fashion and more at the Cinematheque Francaise (exhibit image below). Criterion Complete Tati page on Amazon here.

Recent Spy Vibe posts: Rare Avengers ScriptsMan From Uncle UK ComicsMattel X-15Thunderbirds ComicsShakespeare Spies: Diana RiggShakespeare Spies IBatman NewsMonty Python Fathom SpiesMonty Python Returns!Rodney Marshall Avengers InterviewAvengers Book: Bowler Hats & Kinky BootsGeorge Lois Design & Mad MenRichard Sala: Super-EnigmatixThe SpotnicksModel Secret AgentsRemo Williams Blu-rayBunny Yeager and Ursula AndressDanger MouseLost Avengers EpisodesBig Fun ToysDanger Diabolik SoundtrackMother's Day (Avengers)Mod Fashion DollsCold War ArchieNew Avengers ComicIpcress File Blu-rayPlayboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese BooksThe 10th Victim German EditionUNCLE GunThe Saint books returnTrina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.

Recent Ian Fleming posts on Spy Vibe: new Fleming booksSE Asian 007Cumberbatch as Ian FlemingFleming Jamaica BookBond Japanese EditionsFleming Chinese EditionChitty Chitty Bang Bang 50thIan Fleming: Mt. Demon Hell JapanCollecting FlemingLive and Let Die 60thnew poster announced007 Audio Books UpdateAppropriating Bond Exhibit, Fleming Letters MysteryThe Goldfinger VariationsDouble 007 Book Designs,  Double 007 designs IIrare Ian Fleming editionBook Design DopplegangersTurkish Bond designIan Fleming LettersErno GoldfingerNoel CowardWhispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr, new Ian Fleming CatalogJon Gilbert interview, Double 007 Designs, Bond audio book reissues, discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, James Bond book covers, Ian Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, rare View to a Kill, Fleming's Royal gold typewriter, Ian Fleming's memorial address, Spy Vibe's Ian Fleming image archive.

No comments:

Post a Comment