Daily Archives: February 8, 2020

Jacques Tati, by David Bellos

From the Summer 2000 issue of Cineaste, Vol. XXV, No. 3. — J.R.

Jacques Tati

by David Bellos. London: The Harvill Press, 1999. 382 pp., illus. Hardcover: £25.

In some ways, this is a better biography of Jacques Tati than we had cause to expect from anyone — certainly a more cultivated one than the useful if relatively lowbrow efforts of James Harding in English (1984) and Marc Dondey in French (written with the assistance of Tati’s daughter Sophie Tatischeff, 1993). So it’s all the more regrettable that no American publisher or distributor to date has shown any interest in making this English book available. Even more unexpectedly, the author — who currently teaches in the departments of Comparative Literature and Romance Languages at Princeton — is best known for his work on Balzac (a survey of French criticism over the second half of the nineteenth century) and Georges Perec (a major biography and a good many translations). In fact, there are even a few unforced allusions to Balzac and Perec threaded through this text.

But why Tati? Conceding in his Preface that he isn’t a film critic, a film buff, or a filmmaker manqué, Bellos makes no claims for offering any “last word” about “one of the outstanding creators of the 20th century,” but admits to some curiosity about the sturdiness of the few films Jacques Tati made as an oeuvre — “a set of films which, taken together, is much more than the sum of its parts.” I would argue that this is a quality Tati shared with Dreyer, Welles, and Kubrick — a capacity to keep changing while deceptively maintaining the same inner logic so that years would sometimes pass between these filmmakers’ innovations and the public’s capacity to absorb them.… Read more »

Weird and Wonderful [KIKUJIRO]

From the Chicago Reader (June 30, 2000). — J.R.

Kikujiro

Rating *** A must see

Directed and written by Takeshi Kitano

With Beat Takeshi (Kitano), Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Yuko Daike, and Kazuko Yoshiyuiki.

I’m finally starting to understand Takeshi Kitano’s movies, though given that his specialty seems to be a mixture of violence, slapstick, and sentimentality, I’m not sure I’ll ever be a convert. Still, I found Kikujiro (1999) — his eighth feature, showing this week at the Music Box — much more affecting than the other three features I’ve seen.

One of the fascinating things about Kikujiro, which has virtually no violence, is that it seems both more mainstream and more experimental in form than the other Kitano movies I’ve seen. It changes style so often that it all but eliminates narrative. It’s divided into sections like a photo album, with photos and captions doubling as chapter headings. It has intricately choreographed expressionist dream sequences, extended gags in extreme long shot that all but convert the main characters into balls ricocheting through pinball machines, and absurd physical gags in medium shot (e.g., the hero tries to swim) that take the form of frozen tableaux and provoke blank stares from other characters.… Read more »