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


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#61 Chris_Coombs

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 12:37 PM

I have never seen a Jaques Tati film, so i really can only guess his character from this short clip alone. To me, he seems to be a kind, gentle, friendly and patient man. We see him giving a gift to the girl who obviously wanted a tomato, we see him interacting pleasantly with the neighbors. As he walks up the labyrinth of steps and hallways to his apartment, he does so with a calm, patient manner. The adjustment of the window is funny because it is only after a bit that we realize he is trying to give the bird below some sunlight. At first we have no idea why he is fussing with the window. He kindly takes the sticky candy from the girl and acts pleasant about it to her, though he obviously doesn't really want it. So i would say he is kind, patient, gentle, and mild mannered.

 

The style of the house - the labyrinth of stairs and walkways - is of course absurd and comical. The design is clever because the windows and spaces allow us to see his progress on the inside from the outside, all in one master shot. We see him almost the entire way, and when he disappears he pops back up somewhere else in a comical way. It reminded me of a Rube Goldberg device, in that you progress through seemingly useless complexity simply to get from one point to another.


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#62 drmichaelbowman

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 11:28 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?

There are several things that you can learn about his character based on this scene.  First, his character seems to lead a rather mundane and routine existence.  He must climb up and down the stairs in the same pattern each and everyday.  This must be a tedious process.

 

He also lives an isolated existence.  His apartment is located apart from other tenants in the building.

 

 

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

 

The composition of the shot of Tati climbing the stairs on his way to his apartment reminds me of many of the scenes in Keaton’s films.  Keaton’s cinematographer used the geometry of a building to focus viewer attention on Keaton’s movement.  The same can be said with the shot used on Mon Oncle.  We know that Tait is ascending and descending the stairs but do not see him throughout the entire process.  The humor comes from seeing glimpses of Tati at various stages of climbing the stairs.   There is no editing that would detract from the humor.  The shot composition and lack of editing is a great piece of visual storytelling and adds greatly to the humor.


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#63 jay1458

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 11:23 AM

As I watched this clip, I determined that Hulot is a kind ..considerate.pipe-smoking gent. He also is going to fox his window because I gathered that he is on his way to the hardware store.


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#64 John_Simpson

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 11:04 AM

 

The building in this clip is a maze of  odd angles, windows and stairs that seem to make Hulot’s trek home one of  futility for him and frustration for the audience.

 

The audience can feel whatever it wants but seeing as how Hulot does get home it doesn't rise to the level of futility.  Futility would be him almost at the top but surrealistically coming out back on the street after a wrong turn. This of course would be a contradiction with everything that Hulot stands for. He's comfortable in Old France and most befuddled in the New France.  I would argue that M. Hulot not only doesn't mind the walk up his building but even enjoys the journey


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#65 savaney

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 11:01 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?

 

Hulot is a nice, kind and nonchalant neighbor who greets people, makes sure that the singing bird receives the right amount of sunlight, takes the blame for someone else's wrongdoing at an outside food court, and doesn't get upset at a young girl giving him sticky candy. He is peaceful and caring man who has sympathy for everything and everyone; the neighborhood may be a little chaotic and overwhelming, but he seems to be content with it. He represents a very disappeared era of kindness and non-judgment that is truly missed in today's misplace society.

 

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

 

The building provides enough exposure to Hulot's overall routine. It supports the gags to move an even pace, and also makes sure that they work successfully. Although the audience may get a little uneasy because of the design of the building, but Tati's Hulot is so likeable, and so comforting, that you actually forget the way it looks, and instead focus on how it becomes its own supporting character in the film.  It also didn't hurt that Tati was a genius in setting up the environment and atmosphere to a certain accuracy, so that every gag had a significance and overall successful result.


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#66 John_Simpson

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:52 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?
 

He's a remnant of a France that was rapidly disappearing even as he filmed it. Tati rebelled against the post-war France as illustrated in the rest of Mon Oncle where he contrasts village life with city life and the change represented by scenes of urban development.  As to his character we see him neighborly and always slightly befuddled but with a good heart.

 

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

 

The building is a prop allowing us to see M. Hulot taking a round about way to get home with many changes of direction.

 

All this being said I kind of object to this scene as representing slapstick. To me Tati was always a satirist who used elements of slapstick.  Personally, I think a better representation of slapstick is to be found in M. Hulot's Holiday since Hulot walking to his home is humorous but doesn't quite strike me as slapstick.

 

If we wish to stay with Mon Oncle however, this clip will hopefully prove my point that Tati is making social commentary like Chaplin while using slapstick. Here we see exaggeration, violence and ritual at work as Hulot demonstrates his befuddlement and inability to use modern "conveniences".

 

 

Still staying with Mon Oncle we can really see what Tati was about in this opening scene where we see the contrast between the France that was with the France that it was becoming.  Pay particular attention to the transition at around 1:45

 

 

A touching scene that establishes Tati's context but again, no slapstick humor in evidence.


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#67 Mandroid51

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 10:01 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?

He's a single pipe-smoking kind French middle aged gentleman who lives in a family oriented but noisy neighbourhood and at the top of a large multi-tiered apartment building where he hides his key over his door.

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

The actions are completely visible so it's easy enough to follow. I'd say the building provided enough info to set-up a bunch of gags. I only detected a couple gags including the light in the chirping bird's eyes, and neighbourly activity he's involved by proximity. But, it's only Monday and I'm slow to get going...
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#68 Russell K

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:52 AM

Additional information on Monsieur Hulot can be found here:

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Monsieur_Hulot

 

mrhulotholiday390.jpg?1308182594


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#69 TonyZao

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:37 AM

We tend to associate slapstick comedy with Hollywood, so it's good to have a Daily Dose coming from Europe. Besides, European cinema has a rich tradition in comedy and stars like Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Louis de Funès and Roberto Benigni have contributed in in its development for a century now.

 

In this clip we watch French comedian Jacques Tati portraying a character similar of those of silent comedy stars; a likeable, everyday man with a simple life, ambitions and manners. Always friendly, polite and smiling, there's nothing not to like in this man. There's little dialogue, music background and visual gags, it could be a clip from a silent comedy of the 1920's.

 

Buster Keaton was the first film comedian to use arhitecture as an important tool for his visual gags (his most famous scene is when a house falls on him) and Tati follows his footsteps in this clip. The building where he lives in has an unusual architecture and seems old-fashioned. Color helps him emphasize the aspects of the building. He's seen crossing the entire building to reach his apartment, and his clown-like way of walking makes the scene funny and make-believe.


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#70 riffraf

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:34 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?

 

Watching the Hulot character in this scene we learn right away that he is a kind and friendly person seemingly enjoying his environment as he casually makes his way home from a day at the market.  A gentle and considerate person as he does not get angry or upset when falsely accused of disrupting a fruit & vegetable stand and later even offering the young girl responsible, a gift from the stand.  Jacques Tati appears to be a homage to the common man characters as we’ve experienced with Charley Chase and Harold Lloyd in that he innocently wanders from one awkward situation to another. The young girl in the market not only leaves him accused of being a nuisance but the dog under the stand doesn’t like his fish purchase and is ready to pounce, and then the same girl gives him sticky candy.  Like so many of our earlier films Mr Hulot moves from one bad situation to another yet he is resilient and takes it all in stride.

 

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

 

The building in this clip is a maze of  odd angles, windows and stairs that seem to make Hulot’s trek home one of  futility for him and frustration for the audience.  Even still our kind Mr Hulot takes the time to angle his open window to keep a neighbour’s caged bird happy in reflected sunlight.  By the time he makes it downstairs and back to the street, with sticky hands, I’m exhausted!    


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#71 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:22 AM

1. Hulot is a sensitive, caring, and forgiving human being. He is gentle in his nature of being nice to others especially to his niece in a few scenes of the film. He enters his apartment as though he were lost or entranced into a strange new world of wonders and oddities.

 

2. The building shows us the next level of what the apartment would look like if the postmodern style went to an even further extent. It feels reminiscent of a funhouse with twists and turns, since his apartment looks like it was an attraction at a carnival and he could have been the barker to let tourists enter the funhouse from up the stairs, across the hallway, up the ladder, and down the steps again. That would lead all the way to the glass window and door. 


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#72 Russell K

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 08:52 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?

 

Hulot seems to be a sensitive and gentle character.  He interacts freely and pleasantly with others - the vendor (though the vendor is visibly upset), the child who he forgives, the child's mother (ending his exchange on a pleasant note),  his concern for the bird to have sunlight, and the woman doing her laundry.  In the final exchange with the child, he gratefully accepts the sticky candy from her, yet hides his discomfort in it being so.  Again, he does not wish to hurt her feelings.

 

His costume blends in the scenery - a drab overcoat, nothing distinctive.  His character's gentleness with animals and children reminds me of Chaplin, but without the deviousness and challenge of authority.  He also exhibits some of the stone face of Keaton, as he goes about his daily business.  He also seems to be a creature of habit - with his key above the door and the precise manner he positions his open window.  Also, as a creature of habit, he carries his umbrella on what appears to be a sunny day.

 

HIs stride is purposeful, but not rushed - he takes in the world around him.

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

 

There is a certain lunacy to the visual design of the building - go up to go downagain, go around and wind about, go from one side to the another to return to the original side again.  We see his progress through the small windows, so there is a long short and we follow his continual movement. The angle of the banister points visual direction to the window and highlights it, as does the framing above the door.


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#73 Marianne

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 08:42 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?

Monsieur Hulot is a patient, friendly neighbor. He seems to take the blame when his neighbor accidently drops a tomato at the vendor’s cart outside his apartment building. He very carefully winds his way up and down the stairs once he enters the building. Once inside his apartment, he’s curious about the canary chirping and works at discovering where the sound is coming from. On his way out, he accepts a candy from his neighbor, even though it is sticky and he doesn’t want to eat it. He interacts with his environment as it is.
2. How is the building used to support Tati’s physical comedy?

The building is set up to give glimpses of Hulot. Viewers see him navigate the stairs very carefully and exactly. Hulot’s movement through the building is ritualistic. He uses his umbrella to clear his way when he passes laundry hanging on balconies. His environment, his living space, is decidedly not hostile. Tati uses exaggeration and make-believe (but no violence) to create physical comedy and a whimsical set.


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#74 Dr. Rich Edwards

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 08:01 AM

We will be watching Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle (My Uncle) on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016 at 8pm EDT.

In preparation for that, here is a scene from early in the movie that introduces Tati's character of Hulot. 

 

As usual, the Daily Doses are also archived at our course at Canvas.net through a main link on the main menu/Home page labeled "Daily Dose of Doozy."

 

Enjoy the discussion on today's Daily Dose! 


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Richard Edwards, PhD

Ball State University

Instructor: TCM Presents: Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir (2015)

Instructor: TCM Presents: Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies (2016)

 





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