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Daily Dose of Doozy #9: Visual Design as Slapstick (Jacques Tati)


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#21 Knuckleheads Return

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 08:06 AM

1. As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment? As we observe Hulot we learn a few things about him. He is a creature of habit and routine ( he seems to follow  the same routine whether he is coming home or going out); he is polite and mannerly (excusing himself and tipping his hat to neighbors); he is fastidious (although not well off,  his clothes are clean but not crisp); he lives alone; he likes to hear and see what is going on in the neighborhood, he is a private person as evidenced by his not stopping long to chat with the neighbors he encounters, somewhat trusting ( leaving his apartment key over the door, enjoys birds singing; a quick study of things (figures out that the bird will sing if it gets the sunshine) and he is kind as shown with his interaction with the young girl both at the beginning and at the end of the scene (gives her fruit and takes her offered melted bob bons.

 

2. How is the building used to support Tati’s physical comedy? The building is a hodgepodge of styles of architecture with evidence of many add-ons. His going up and across the various stairs and floors cause us to keep an eye out as to where he is headed. His use of his umbrella and satchel are his props. The windows give framing almost as if he is in a picture or painting as he moves up through the building. His use of the squeaky window and tying it into the bird singing and the suns reflection. If this would have been a single floor building we would not have experienced this simple yet curiosity filled scene of him heading home.


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#22 Dubbed

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 03:54 AM

I noticed the dog and the fish, too. I kept thinking that someone trained that dog perfectly and that the fish must have been a plastic prop that looked real as heck! The bit definitely added to the humor.


Absolutely! I thoroughly enjoy animals on camera as they never realize exactly what is occurring. Tossing a dog into the comedic bit was very funny!
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#23 Schlinged

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 10:30 PM

Questions:
1. As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment? I'd say he's well-established in his environment, the interaction with the shopkeeper, the girl and her mother, another woman all show that he is a friendly and well-liked person. The interplay with the bird shows that he can manage the environment that he has created for himself and his neighbors, in contrast to the sterile environment of Arpel. He's choosing function over form and comfort rather than style.
 
2. How is the building used to support Tati's physical comedy? The building itself is a mish-mash of architectural designs, with just his walk up going through the various staircases and windows of the building providing a process. For instance, walking up to get to a down staircase in one instance, with the colors and geometry, placement of the windows, that remind me of the Winchester House in San Jose and Chaplin's Modern Times going through the gears of the machine. But he also uses the building as a prop by keeping his key in the gables and using the window's reflection to keep the bird singing, all bits of subtle comedy.

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#24 Bluboo

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 09:11 PM

I would not have considered this slapstick- it did not follow all the rules of slapstick- except for the ritualistic part of it.


Thank you for posting this, Robinlee, because I was feeling a little guilty about not enjoying this selection. I tried watching the movie and gave up after an hour. It was mildly humorous but not slapstick by the definition we learned. I do agree with seeing the patterns in Hurlot's life, the repetitious routine and the almost mechanical response by Hurlot'. He is gentle and kind, and he loves children. He seems odd in his physical presence, a bit too tall yet pleasantly graceful.

The building's design is definitely eccentric, matching the eccentricity of Hurlot. The path to his apartment is odd, and it seems appropriate that he lives in the top floor with an amazing view. I could not help but recall Victor Velasco in "Barefoot in the Park". The continuous camera shot from a distance long enough to capture the building and Hurlot's progress was a effective visual technique.
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#25 robinlee

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 08:51 PM

I would not have considered this slapstick- it did not follow all the rules of slapstick- except for the ritualistic part of it. 


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#26 MarxBrosfan4

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 06:25 PM

He is used to his routine of going to his apartment and going up and down the stairs. The part with the dog growling at the fish was funny. The little girl was a sneak for dropping the tomatoes and then letting Mr. Hulot take the blame. He does get after her but then gives her apples which is taken away. The building is quite interesting to see how he goes up them especially in the top right where he does a quick turn. Making the bird sing by the glare of the window was great to see. He looks happy to hear the bird sing. He is content with all that is around him.



#27 JazzGuyy

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 02:48 PM

I have nothing new to add to what already has been discussed. I do have an observation and a question of my own. It may not advance the subject matter forward here, but could be an opportunity to learn more about the building Hulot calls home. 

 

1. As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment?

 

In order for Hulot to reach his apartment, he must walk up four flights stairs and in between, go down one flight, with plenty of turns- (an arduous task for anyone.) Does someone know if this particular architecture style was widespread in France at the time? I would think it would not be popular with tenants. Perhaps Tati was making a satirical commentary on this style, either way (pro or con.)

 

I doubt the architecture of this building represents anything real. There are too many elements that have that 'tacked on' look and that represent a hodge-podge of architectural components. The resemblance to any real building is more superficial than real. The building itself seems to  be designed to represent the eccentricity of the Hulot character. Anyone who would live in such a bizarre building must be a little bit of an oddball.


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#28 Motorcitystacy

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 12:29 PM

I first discovered Jacques Tati and Monsieur Hulot in "M. Hulot's Holiday" at the Detroit FIlm Theatre a few years ago.

 

Tati was the French Buster Keaton with a deadpan expression and his ability to get into all kinds of comedic trouble. As was the case with the mischievous young lady deliberately dropping tomatoes and having Hulot take the blame. The dog seeing the dead fish mirrors the trouble Hulot has with the vendor and we expect all hell to break loose. But it doesn't. Instead we see him gently scold to girl (who probably regrets NOTHING) and offer he something.

 

The scene where we see Hulot go up to his apartment is delightful with its twisted stairs and architectural design. The opening of the window startles him as he probably never heard a window tweet instead of squeak and then we eventually see the cause---a bird. He is also kind and generous, adjusting the window for light reflection for the bird.

 

As a comparison, "M. Hulot's Holiday" has him experiencing the troubles we have while on vacation---and wanting a vacation from our vacation!

 

In that film's trailer, a wild jazz score accompanies the mishaps that Hulot encounters. But there are also beautiful moments, including his encounter with the lovely Martine, whom everyone guy wants---but will never have.

https://www.youtube....h?v=SZGUIpdc0i4


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#29 Marianne

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 12:22 PM

Mr. Hulot appears to be quite the eccentric. The setup of the scene is immediately crafted to comedic effect. A young girl dropping tomatoes at a food stand, and then fleeing lends blame to the lone person remaining behind- Mr. Hulot. Wrongfully accused, he seemingly accepts the mishap as his own, as a dog beneath the stand readily argues with Hulot's supposed dinner- a dead fish. (This exchange was a great marvel. The use of an animal, to a certain execution, can undoubtedly raise a comedic approach to a greater level.) . . .

 

 

I noticed the dog and the fish, too. I kept thinking that someone trained that dog perfectly and that the fish must have been a plastic prop that looked real as heck! The bit definitely added to the humor.



#30 flvisco

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 08:26 AM

Tati created Mr. Hulot and placed him in a changing world in several films. Mon Oncle clearly shows the filmmaker's love for tradition, and his inability to conform to the trends of modernity. Later, in Playtime, he actually bankrupted himself to create modern Paris before it existed! That film shows American tourists enthralled with all the wrong things, and the old attractions - Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, etc. - only seen in reflections in modern glass doors.
I'm glad to see Tati included in this course, because he has been overlooked too often and too long in the pantheon of great comedic filmmakers. Viewing all his work, which has been lovingly restored and compiled in a recent collection, will help add new understanding of what a modern comic genius can do with the visual medium to enhance our appreciation of tradition.

And I'm attaching a photo of 3 of our subjects conferring together. An historic meeting, for sure.

Attached Files


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#31 Whipsnade

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 04:18 AM

     This clip from “Mon Oncle” (1958) shows Jacques Tati’s character, Mr. Hurlot, as he goes through a familiar routine of returning to his apartment to drop off groceries.  From it, we can see that he is a kind and simple man, easy going and slightly befuddled. The scene opens at the vegetable stand, when the neighbor girl knocks over some tomatoes and runs away.  Hurlot is blamed by the vendor and accepts the blame quietly, though his shuffling feet shown under the table indicate some level of discomfort with the situation.  This scene is heightened by the added gag in which his dead fish and a dog almost get into a fight.  This exchange under the table mirrors the unseen action above the table between Hurlot and the vendor.  Both Hurlot and the fish look guilty but are innocent.  After this exchange, he walks deliberately but casually towards his building.  Seeing the girl who caused the trouble, he scolds her mildly (as indicated by the shaking of the umbrella), then gives her a treat (apples?).   Though the mother takes them from the girl and keeps them herself, Hurlot shows no irritation.  He starts the obviously familiar progression through the stairs and levels of this eccentric building.  His moves are deliberate, but his pace is leisurely -- he does not seem put out by the inconvenience of the route.  At the apartment, his apparent concern about a squeaky window is revealed to be another act of kindness, as he was adjusting the reflected sunlight to shine on a caged bird.  Upon leaving, he winds down through the levels of the building.  He interacts with a neighbor and encounters the girl again.  She offers him a candy that he doesn’t want but he accepts to be polite.  It is a comfortable domestic scene -- albeit in a strange setting.  

     Though we have not seen it yet, this building is offered as a counterpoint to the modern building that his nephew lives in (Villa Arpel).  Beyond this, the house serves as a  comic prop, or even a comic character.  It is a community building, designed for maximum social interaction. This is not the kind of building that is designed in a systematic way; its development and evolution had to take place organically.   Its existence acts as a philosophical opposition to the post-war school of modern design that emphasized functional architectural minimalism and spartan social isolation.  Navigating this building is not just a simple task of going from point A to point B, it is an adventure that involves interacting with many or all of the neighbors.  Its eccentric charm stands as a critique of institutional modernism.   


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#32 Dubbed

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 02:36 AM

Mr. Hulot appears to be quite the eccentric. The setup of the scene is immediately crafted to comedic effect. A young girl dropping tomatoes at a food stand, and then fleeing lends blame to the lone person remaining behind- Mr. Hulot. Wrongfully accused, he seemingly accepts the mishap as his own, as a dog beneath the stand readily argues with Hulot's supposed dinner- a dead fish. (This exchange was a great marvel. The use of an animal, to a certain execution, can undoubtedly raise a comedic approach to a greater level.)

I believe Hulot's character is exhibited by his surroundings, especially the building in which he resides. In terms of specificity, the stairs are of vital importance. Mr. Hulot's ascension (of a flight of stairs) in order to descend an additional flight to reach his front door is blatantly absurd and hilarious. This speaks volumes into the insight of his character; quirky, usual, and comedic, measured with a keen perception and intelligence.

The building's characteristic design is displaced from that of what one may call traditional Slapstick. The comedic physicality is reminiscent of the building, in that it's odd, unlike any definitive version of this particular type of comedy. The building reflects Mr. Hulot as a character and vice versa.

This individualistic slapstick approach was a refreshingly, different kind of comedic take. Tati has clearly produced a redefining of slapstick, sprinkling about his own witticisms of genius. I have never explored the artistic expressions of Jacques Tati, but I do believe I've been introduced to an artist who will quickly become a new favorite.
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#33 ilovetcmandslapstick

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:24 PM

  1. As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment?

Hulot seems to be a man completely comfortable in his own skin. Therefore he can confront the absurdities of life with gentleness, love and acceptance. He protects the young girl’s dropping of the tomatoes, easily absorbs the vendor’s wrath, as his fish seems unconcerned with the dog’s barking,

 (The fish returns as a fountain/ statue at the modern house).

 

Each situation and person he meets – he brings joy and comfort to the interaction. The girl, the mother, passing through the laundry,  directing sunlight to the singing bird. Instead of slapstick this could be called lovestick.

 

 

  1. How is the building used to support Tati's physical comedy?

The “funhouse” design of the building exaggerates the non-functionality of Hulot’s life. It’s the journey not the destination. As he passes through each window of his journey through the building, the tension builds at the circuitous route.  Hulot moves through the maze easily and comfortably, familiar with the ups and downs.



#34 johnseury

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:07 PM

1. You can tell that Hulot is a decent, hardworking person, friendly and trying to get by. I loved the bit early on in the clip with the dog growling at that fish.
2. The building accentuates Hulot's decency as a normal Everyman trying to make it. It may take him a while to get there but he does. Seeing him walk up those crazy stairs reminded me of the opening of th Mr. Magoo cartoons where he driving through all kinds of situations.

#35 drzhen

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:22 PM

Hulot is established as kind by his interaction with the girl and his accommodation of the canary. His ascent to his apartment is ritualistic and proper. The scene itself requires a bit of patience but the careful placement of the windows in relation to the stairs make his intermittent appearances somewhat surprising and amusing. The building, like Hulot himself, is eccentric but inviting.

Thank you for selecting this film. I highly recommend Tati's innocent brand of comedy to any who might be interested. There are four Hulot films written and directed by Tati and all have something to offer if you're willing to give yourself to his kinder, gentler form of slapstick. I'm also looking forward to the Pierre Etaix film on Tuesday. Cheers.


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#36 ShawnDog

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:20 PM

1. Hulot is content and good natured, as seen in the literal spring in his step, his friendliness to his neighbors, even his argument with the produce seller is more conversational than confrontational.  He seems perfectly accepting of his arduous and maze-like path to his home.

2. The building shows a makeshift and surreal quality to Tati's scene, cartoonish yet indicative of Hulot's financial status of modest means.  One can relate to his standing, but not the extremity of the architecture, yet his trek engages us to go along, especially since he seems an appealing character.


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#37 Marianne

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 08:13 PM

I have nothing new to add to what already has been discussed. I do have an observation and a question of my own. It may not advance the subject matter forward here, but could be an opportunity to learn more about the building Hulot calls home. 

 

1. As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment?

 

In order for Hulot to reach his apartment, he must walk up four flights stairs and in between, go down one flight, with plenty of turns- (an arduous task for anyone.) Does someone know if this particular architecture style was widespread in France at the time? I would think it would not be popular with tenants. Perhaps Tati was making a satirical commentary on this style, either way (pro or con.)

 

I don't have an answer to your question, but it does make me wonder if Monsieur Hulot's living arrangement is a commentary on tenements in general, not just in France. A large single-family home might get partitioned into smaller and smaller apartments so that more and more people can move into the city, any city (and also so that a landlord can earn more and more from the rent). Monsieur Hulot gives the impression that he likes being around a lot of people and that he makes the best of his living situation.

 

Maybe others on this discussion thread will have more information.


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#38 Jeff Netto

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:38 PM

I'm so glad Jacques Tati made the lineup! 

 

Mr. Hulot satirizes the excesses of modernity, while also appreciating some of what it has to offer. He is indeed complicated in this regard. The wildly inconvenient architecture of his building contrasts with the hyper-modern convenience of his nephews house in the film. The sterility of the hyper-modern house is at obvious odds with the communal ambiance of this kooky old, retro-partitioned house. For the most part, Hulot seems like a remnant of the pre-WWII era -- a less alienating time. But he also, at times, seems to enjoy fooling around with new-school technology.

 

Love this clip!


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#39 Heather Mary

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:08 PM

Hulot seems like a very kind and considerate man. Defending a little girl or himself as the fish gets growled at by the doggie. Just seems like an every day man you would see. He is not an extraordinary man. Just a lovely man going on about his life.
A longshot of the apartment is extraordinary. The man himself is not. Where he lives has such character. I love watching him go through the stairs in the windows and putting the light on his bird or somebody's bird. It almost looks like a dollhouse, the apartment. The entire atmosphere is sunny and fun. The kids playing, the woman pulling in her clothes from drying. It's a sweet scene. Gives me a smile.
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#40 CynthiaV

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:34 PM

1. As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment?

He is kind, loyal and unassuming as shown by his reaction to being falsely accused for the spoiled tomatoes, not turning in the little girl who was the actual culprit but instead Hulot gifts her his own tomatoes. Also by accepting the sticky candy from her when leaving. Hulot is quirky and does not let difficulties deter him. He is egalitarian. He enjoys his home and the ups and downs, ins and outs of reaching his front door even if it means passing through clothes drying on the line. He is trusting as he stores his door key above the lintel in full view of anyone passing by on the street below. He enjoys simple things, nature as evinced by his reflecting the sunlight on the songbirds to keep them singing. He is a happy man who enjoys a comfortable cozy home and not concerned by what others may think of him.

2. How is the building used to support Tati's physical comedy?

The various levels, the sunlight through the windows that show first his profile, then his feet, then his body. I love the staircase up then the roundabout then the staircase down. You can't help but watch him. Even the soft colors and quaint doorways and gingerbread trim are comforting and inviting and quirky. A place that invites the potential for friendly conversations, visits, gatherings. It is a place of community not isolation. Tati is comfortable in this setting so anything can happen.
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