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And then there was ‘Playtime’

Jonathan Coe: Vive Tati!

9 December 1999
Jacques​ Tati 
by David Bellos.
Harvill, 382 pp., £25, October 1999, 1 86046 651 6
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... celebration of comic genius goes hand in hand with character assassination. Every version of Tony Hancock’s life zooms in on his alcoholism and depression. David Bellos does not, in the case of JacquesTati, have a ruthless control freak or incurable melancholic on his hands, although even his book contains one or two tales of debts unpaid, employees exploited and lapses into despair. (A very small ...

Chez Tati

Penelope Gilliatt

30 December 1982
... of which the Goons said that it would be nice when it was finished, so it seems best to say ‘favourite film directors’ instead – Renoir, Gance, Eisenstein, Ray, Truffaut, Keaton, Vigo, Tati. Tati has lately died after a career triumphant beyond compare in comic quality, apart perhaps from Keaton. Both could have made films in broom cupboards. Keaton used his august and stoic profile as a sort ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Playtime’

20 November 2014
directed by Jacques Tati.
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... perhaps, the ordinary man as outsider. He first appeared in the film I have just mentioned, then in Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967) and Traffic (1971). You can see all of these, and more of JacquesTati’s work, in a magnificent new Criterion set; and a new print of Playtime is showing at the BFI as part of a Tati retrospective. They wear well, these films. Or rather, they don’t wear, they ...
15 May 1980
Cinema: A Critical Dictionary: The Major Film-Makers 
edited by Richard Roud.
Secker, 1120 pp., £25, February 1980, 9780436428302
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The Dream that Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain 
by Michael Chanan.
Routledge, 356 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0319 6
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... Vittorio De Sica? Ah, says Roud, ‘the crash of De Sica’s reputation over the past decade has been the loudest of any director one can think of.’ Anyone for critical terrorism? And admirers of JacquesTati will treasure another of Roud’s throwaway lines: ‘I wish I could fully share Fieschi’s views on Tati, but the disagreeable and to me totally unfunny Hulot seems to get in the way ...
19 August 1993
Afternoon Raag 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Heinemann, 133 pp., £3.99, June 1993, 0 434 12349 8
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... used their empty hours to squeeze from themselves a razor-sharp competence in these matters’). More than that, however, it appropriately points up a line of affinity between Chaudhuri and JacquesTati, two humane and diffident humourists who also happen to be rigorous seekers after perfection in their own work, and whose fundamentally stern moralism has less to do with authorial finger-wagging ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid

14 June 1990
Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... too. The versification plays with bathos – and wins; the homespun-looking quatrains prove to have a lilt and grace of their own. It’s all a matter of makeshift improvisation: you feel that JacquesTati could have taken the scene described here and turned it into a small film, charming, but disturbingly poignant. There are grounds for regarding ‘Manners’ as a covert manifesto poem – the ...


David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise

15 April 1999
Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... who are the inheritors of the spirit, if not the style, of Morecambe and Wise carry the double act into new territory by mixing it with a range of cinematic, theatrical and televisual influences from JacquesTati, through the Cabaret Voltaire, to Tom and Jerry. The jokes are new, the comic situations are different, but there is something in the relationship – the odd pairing of minds adrift in their ...
19 January 1989
Russian and Soviet Theatre: Tradition and the Avant-Garde 
by Constantin Rudnitsky, translated by Roxane Permar.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £40, April 1988, 0 500 01433 7
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The ‘Golden’ Twenties: Art and Literature in the Weimar Republic 
by Bärbel Schrader and Jürgen Schebera, translated by Katherine Vanovitch.
Yale, 271 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 300 04144 6
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... Ballet or the career of subsequent émigrés like Granovsky and Mikhail Chekhov, Yakulov and Exter, let alone such important directors of Russian descent as Pitoeff, Komisarjevsky, Peter Brook and JacquesTati, all of which is surely relevant to the modern reader’s view of the subject. He also virtually omits the cabaret and the ‘Blue Blouse’ agitprop movement, though he gives a useful account ...

Nae new ideas, nae worries!

Jonathan Coe: Alasdair Gray

20 November 2008
Old Men in Love: John Tunnock’s Posthumous Papers 
by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 0 7475 9353 9
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Alasdair Gray: A Secretary’s Biography 
by Rodge Glass.
Bloomsbury, 341 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7475 9015 6
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... For moments like this, it is well worth hacking your way through the thickets of digression, repetition and pale historical reimaginings that make up most of the novel. Someone once said of JacquesTati’s Playtime that it could be forgiven because Tati had earned himself the right to doodle on a grand scale. The same is true of Gray. In his intelligent and warm-hearted biography, Glass ...

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