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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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


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#41 HEYMOE

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:32 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.)

 

 


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#42 ScottZepher

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:29 PM

Bonjour Mr. Hulot! 

 

I was first introduced to Jacques Tati's character when the good people at TCM aired Le Vacances de Mr. Hulot

 

Hulot's world (like Sellers' Clouseau and Atkinson's Mr. Bean, in my opinion) can be summed up in one word: complication.  If their world isn't complicated enough (even if his apartment building is a post-war, reconstruction, there must be some easier way to get to the third?floor), they will go to whatever lengths are necessary to take the situation to every possible height of complication.  Unlike the characters I mentioned above, Tati's Hulot is the very model of unperturbed composition.  The apartment building (and the boarding house of his sunny seaside vacation), is merely there. There may be the occasional squeaky hinge or unreasonably loud bird, c'est le vie. 

 

Unperturbed as he is, one of the trademarks of his slapstick are the victims he leaves in his wake.  If the scene were, for example, a supermarket, Hulot would move replace the can of soup where he feels it should be, leaving it to the next poor sap to pick it up and send the display crashing to the floor.


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#43 Lawrence Wolff

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:29 PM

Mr. Hulot is quiet, kind, a little stiff in manner, generous and caring. Interesting how he gives the tomatos to the girl and her mother takes them from her saying she is not a child anymore. Mother keeps them. He knows his way around and proceeds in a confident manner, blissfully unaware of the dog about to fight with his fish. I was waiting for the dog to attack the fish, but it fits the character that he doesn't have to fight the dog over the fish. That would destroy the easy feel to the entire scene and Hulot's gentle character.

 

The walk to his apartment works in the long continuous long shot. You anticipate his appearing at the next window or doorway on his way up and smile every time he appears. Quiet and confident in his walk. A photographic joy. Not out and out belly laugh funny, but a funny thinking kind of comedy.

 

 

 


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#44 Dave Lightfoot

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:12 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?

We learn that Hulot is a polite and patient man, as he discusses the girl dropping the tomatoes. He doesn't raise a temper, and walks away with a pep in his step. He's a kind man, as he gives the young girl two apples, which her mother takes away.

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

As I said before, he is a patient man! I would probably go nuts or invest in a ladder to walk through that building! He tries to make the bird sing by adjusting the window. Then back down he goes.
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#45 judith46

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 05:29 PM

Everyone has already expressed my own thoughts, and so beautifully!  I did have to look closely in the dog scene to see if the fish was barking back, because the mouth shape of dog and fish were the same!


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#46 Janeko

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:52 PM

Mr. Hulot appears to be a quiet, kind, gentle man.  This is reflected in the way he slowly walks, taking in his surroundings and engaging with the people around him. He takes the blame for the girl's having damaged the tomatoes and then buys her more.  When her mother, embarrassed, apologizes to him for her daughter's actions, he graciously accepts the apology and then moves on.

 

The building is a wonderful conglomeration of styles and has real character!!  All those steps!!  It was funny to watch him going up and down to get to his home.  At the same time, the way he calmly goes up and down all of those steps reflect his "go with the flow" attitude. The soft colors of the house reflect his personality.  No loud, garish colors; just gentle pastels with living plants here and there and, of course the canary.  He connects with the canary, realizing that the sunshine encourages the bird to sing.  Then he makes sure that the window is open just the right way for the sun to reflect on the bird. Nice touch.

 

The girl's character is at odds with his.  She knocks the tomatoes onto the ground and then runs away, letting him take the blame for her actions.  She accepts new ones from him when she knows she shouldn't.  And she plays a trick on him with the candy.  He takes it all in stride.

 

I love the scene where the dog is barking at the fish.  It reminded me of a scene from the silent slapstick comedies.  I kept waiting for the dog to attack the fish head!


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#47 DontAiNow

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:49 PM

I found Mr. Hulot to be very observational and discerning. His surroundings didn't just surround him, he knew his way around his apartment and neighborhood. In a subtle comedic way, he would maneuver very quickly from one entrance, window, or way.



#48 ln040150

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:46 PM

When I first saw Mon Oncle, as a very precocious young boy, it was one of many influences--especially in foreign films--that fed into ideas about more than comedy. Although the film was funny, it was also very much a cultural criticism, and it reflected the entire range of intellectual revolution roiling in France at the time that would change the way every thinking person would soon see the world. Interestingly, like so many of the other films we are seeing this week, it both honors and parodies the silent comedies of old. But this one does so in the most noble of ways compared to the others, by moving those comedies forward into the future, both practically and intellectually. And, at times, in terms of pure humor as well, in ways the others simply fail to do. This Hulot is a simple, kind, working man who is caught up in the changing middle class France living on the outskirts of the "Big City." This is where new apartment houses are built, where new designs replace the old, and where the middle class moves when the poor occupy the old homes in the poor parts of the city, especially when poor immigrants are filling up those spaces coming in, from all of over the former French empire. This is the underlying "text" in Tati's comedy and why it was so well received when considered at Oscar-time. His gracefulness on set was matched by his gracefulness in the script.
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#49 redpaws

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:37 PM

I found a very very subtle gag of the fact that as a tall lean character he seemed to "make" the set conform to his size and comfort ,his ease at navigating not only stairs but endless props placed in his way ,he moves them (the props)  with grace instead of moving out of the objects way.


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#50 RhondaWI

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:19 PM

Mr. Hulot is the kind man of the neighborhood. He takes care of others, even when they don't know it, yet his charm is disarming at times. 

 

The bulding helps his character be a fully developed "person" that one can relate to and the events that will arise from what he does.



#51 MrZerep

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:04 PM

Hulot lives in a working class neighborhood where everyone seems to know each other the dogs growl at fish!  Hulot seems to be a tender soul- kind to neighbors and even birds.  He is a very patient man as well.

 

Before viewing the clip I took a good look at the exterior if the house trying to figure out how it could be source of slapstick and what a revelation!  He calmly enters the building and proceeds to go to his quarters.  Reminds me of a fun house where you can see people pop in and out.  It's perhaps the most gentlest of the physical slapsticks we've seen.  And the bit with the birds; at first I thought it was a sound effect for a squeaky window hinge and the payoff was the sun's reflection off the window and into the birdcage as if announcing a new day.  It is a very clever and well thought out gag.



#52 goingtopluto

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 03:48 PM

As mentioned in previous post Mr.Hulot seems like a kind and patient man. The house's many levels gives him a chance to show is extraordinary patience in a comic manner. The house was a great slapstick tool. The windows and the staircase reminded me of houses in Dr.Suess books.
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#53 moviequeen2

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 02:22 PM

From this clip of Mr. Hulot walking to his apartment it shows him to be a kind man when he helps the young girl. He certainly seems to take life in stride especially the long, crazy walk to his apartment and back down again. It is a very good example of a visual slapstick using the design of the building. Walking up and down that crazy design must get very tedious.
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#54 jkbrenna

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 01:51 PM

Mon Oncle clip:

 

M. Hulot, in this clip, seems to me to be a kind person, taking the blame for the dropped tomatoes for the girl, and evidently buying two more to give to her.  He does reprimand her, waving his umbrella and yet gives her two more tomatoes. He's quiet and doesn't complain when the woman takes the tomatoes from the girl, supposedly her daughter, and keeps them.  He acts like a simple man, who glides along with the events of his day.  I guess that could be interpreted as a positive outlook.

 

The house's unusual structure is funny and he takes his ups and downs and ups again in stride.  Clever.  Will watch the whole movie tomorrow night.

 


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#55 Patti Zee

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 01:36 PM

Here we find a kind, compassionate man making his way evenly through the chaos of everyday life. He is put upon by circumstances, but sails serenely on. I agree that the way he is dressed adds to his appeal as a quiet sort of gent in these opening scenes...but these kinds of openings often lead to unexpected and very funny events. I haven't yet seen the entire movie, but I am drawn in to see what will happen.

Then there is the building where he lives. Surprisingly bohemian for such a seemingly staid fellow. A very oddly shaped stage for this unfolding tale, but it seems warm and welcoming as he pops in and out of sight in an interesting journey to his place in it. We can already get a feeling of community as he gets his key from above the door and upon entering and going to his window he finds that by setting the window just right he can shine light on the neighbor's canary, making it burst into song. I don't know where he is going as he makes his careful way back through this nonthreatening maze of a building, but I am hooked by this ingenuously designed opening segment. The house truly is another character that helps shape our ideas about Mr. Hulot, and possibly his neighbors.
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#56 picasso55

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 01:29 PM

I see a parallel between the man and the building. The building is quirky and does not quite fit into the rest of the world as is the man a bit quirky but they are also somewhat charming both because of and in spite of their nonconformity. I love the fact that he appears self aware, comfortable with who he is and as a result is kind to a fault without judgement.

 

Several people have noted the whimsical design of the building and related it to a fun house. I believe Penn Gillette would love it as he designed and built his house in that manner. It would not surprise me if he is a fan of this movie and of course slapstick. Although the Penn and Teller act is based in magic, many elements of the gags are slapstick in their execution.


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#57 gtunison

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 01:05 PM

He is nice to kids and dogs.

 

The building is a series of steps and mazes. He has to go up and around and down to get to his apartment. I thought of Peter Sellers.

 

 

 

 


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#58 Pjdamon

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 12:59 PM

1. He's a mild manner Frenchman in a noisy neighborhood. His movements are slow and deliberate. I see a bit of Chaplin in his actions with the street vendor and his interaction with the girl. But I also see Keaton as well as he goes through the apartment building. I didn't see him as someone that was lonely but someone comfortable with himself.

2. The buildings unique architecture adds to the scene. He doesn't go in one side to get to his apartment but zigzags through what appears to be different styles and types of stairs to get to the top. It brings a softer kind of comedy than most of the previous slaps ticks we've seen.
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#59 MrDougLong

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 12:43 PM

1.       From his walk home, we learn that Mr. Hulot is a man of ritual. He seems to live in a world of familiarity where it is unnecessary for him to speak and where people already know him. Even interruptions, such as the girl dropping the tomatoes, are not so bad that he has to alter his ritual by much. The path to his apartment seems to be the longest route through the labyrinth of an apartment building, but he seems not to mind.

2.       Just watching him walk through the levels and pop up in a different window is funny, like watching someone in a fun house. He gets humor from surprising us – the moving of the window seems to be to consider the squeak, but we learn that it’s to focus light on a singing bird. It’s funny to see that the staircase goes higher than it needs to for the top floor. And it’s funny to see him graciously maneuver around the woman hanging laundry outside the top floor.


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#60 Barracuda89

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 12:39 PM

1. I was amazed at how beautifully the building was used in Jacques Tati's scene. Each floor of the apartment had its own nuances that illustrated the character of the people that lived within its walls. Because of this outward personification, the apartment building itself can be used as a character that Tati can interact with, almost as if another person is sharing the scene with him.

 

2. The building is used to support Tati's physical comedy in such a refreshing splendid way. Tati weaves in and out, floor to floor, engaging with some part of the building on each floor. His interactions with the laundry line, and the window show just how resonating Tati's physical comedy still it today, even in 2016.


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