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Playtime: The Modern Comedy of Jacques Tati

January 14, 2010 - January 30, 2010

Playtime, January 15, 23

“Comedy is the summit of logic.”—Jacques Tati

He is best remembered as Monsieur Hulot: with his jutting pipe and storklike walk, addressing the world at an acute angle, Jacques Tati’s signature character is almost as iconic as Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Born Jacques Tatischeff, Tati (1907–1982) got his start in the 1930s music hall with humorous sketches miming various sports, and his talent for physical comedy, embodied in the immortal Hulot, is one of his great contributions to film history. Even greater, though, is his exacting work behind the camera. Tati has been described as the cinema’s foremost antimodern modernist; his precisely arranged images and inventive soundtracks underline the alienation and oddity of everyday twentieth-century life. Satire aside, the films—presented here in new prints—are full of the pleasures of observation, of watching and listening. As Jonathan Rosenbaum said of Playtime, Tati “turns the very acts of seeing and hearing into a form of dancing.”

Juliet Clark

Thursday, January 14, 2010
7:00 p.m. M. Hulot’s Holiday
Jacques Tati (France, 1953). This cinematic postcard from a seaside summer resort is “the most important comic work in world cinema since the Marx Brothers and W. C. Fields . . . an event in the history of sound film.”—André Bazin. With short Watch Your Left. (108 mins)

Friday, January 15, 2010
7:00 p.m. Playtime
Jacques Tati (France, 1967). Tati’s vision of sixties Paris is “perhaps the most madly modernistic work of anti-modernism in the history of cinema.”—New Yorker. “One of the ten greatest films of all time.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum. With short Night Class. (153 mins)

Saturday, January 16, 2010
6:30 p.m. Jour de fête
Jacques Tati (France, 1949). Tati’s first feature is a charming portrait of a rural village, where the bumbling local postman is inspired to American-style efficiency by a newsreel in a traveling fair. “Everyone loves Jour de fête.”—New Yorker. With short The School for Postmen. (108 mins)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
7:00 p.m. Mon oncle
Jacques Tati (France, 1958). The wonders of an ultramodern house come in for classic Tati mockery. “Slapstick heaven.”—New Yorker. (116 mins)

Saturday, January 23, 2010
5:30 p.m. Playtime
Jacques Tati (France, 1967). With short Night Class. See January 15. (153 mins)

Sunday, January 24, 2010
4:30 p.m. Traffic
Jacques Tati (France, 1971). A comic-apocalyptic vision of mechanized modernity in which humankind indulges in a perpetual love-hate relationship with its favorite pet, the automobile. (100 mins)

Thursday, January 28, 2010
7:00 p.m. Parade
Jacques Tati (France, 1974). Tati returns to his music-hall roots, performing some of his most famous routines, in this rarely screened circus film. (75 mins)

Saturday, January 30, 2010
5:30 p.m. M. Hulot’s Holiday
Jacques Tati (France, 1953). With short Watch Your Left. See January 14. (108 mins)

Series curated by Susan Oxtoby. PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance with this retrospective: Delphine Selles, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York; Denis Bisson and Cecile Hokes, French Consulate, San Francisco; and Sarah Finklea, Janus Films, New York.