Dr. Rich Edwards

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

74 posts in this topic

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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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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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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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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It seems to me that the clearest thing about Hulot is serenity. He walks up to his apartment in a constant, quiet and conformed pace, going through the actual maze that is the way to his door. That analogy is, by the way, a good way to analyze some of the main characteristics of his personality. Never mind the steps or the tortuous way to get someplace, because I'll keep on my way. He also shows on this short clip that he is against any kind of conflict (with the salesman, with the neighbors) even when a dog seems an element to misfortune his day. Finally, I'd say that he's methodical. Not only the staircase is always walked the same way, but even the window must be placed somehow he judges being the best one to make the bird sing louder.

 

The building is literally a maze (tortuous on his way until the top), which is opposed to Hulot's main characteristic of being methodical, serene, conformed. The comedy here does not rely on quick gags, but on more contemplative sequences that oppose themselves against each other frequently. The building clearly opposes to Hulot in many ways, reinforcing his comic skills and characteristics.

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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.

I think the architecture of the building, & the many add-ons to it, represent how Hulot is a person who is adaptable.  He doesn't try to change his world, he adapts to it.

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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 think his character is a nice person, loves to do nice things for people like giving fruit to a little girl at the start of the scene.  Its kind of funny to view the scene in mostly a single take to see what window he would pop up next as he walks to his room. 

 

 

 

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

 

First off the first thing I saw was that he is surrounded by boxes even before his building. When you view the building all of the windows are like boxes. As I said surrounded by boxes.  

 

It also looks like he walks down and up invisible stairs as he uses his body.

 

The building looks almost like the building in rear window (to a point)

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Robinlee and Bluboo, I didn't even make it an hour though I did try. I had hopes that eventually there would be something to truly identify it as slapstick, but as others observed, there was only the ritualism of a mildly OCD Frenchman. The behavior of his relatives in their oh-so-modern block house was mildly amusing but not enough to make me want to watch any further.

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Hi, I watched nearly the whole movie last night and then slept thru part of it as I waited for laugh out loud moments.  

 

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 the character of Hulot walks to his apartment, we learn that he is a patient man who carefully and slowly makes his way thru the maze of the dwelling.

 

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

I don't think the building supports his comedy.  The building supports his daily exercise but not much else.

 

Thank you  :)

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1.  As you carefully watch the screen, what do you learn about the character Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment?  As yet another perfect day not without a mishap, here we have Hulot, a perfect victim of circumstance.  Haphazardly, he slowly enters the scene from the bystander standpoint while his life goes through a taciturn at his encountering a girl who nonchalantly runs and drops a tomato on the ground.  Mother yells at the girl.  There is confusion as to whether she is yelling at the girl or at unawares Hulot.  As if matters couldn't get worse, he taunts his fish in front of snarling dog, as if to tease.  Business as usual, he leaves and walks past girl, who argues him as if he is in the wrong.  He reminds me of episodes of that crazy, funny uncle," from episodes of "Good Ship, Lollipop." Whereas, after shunning girl, while waving his umbrella at the girl, he finally rewards her with a piece of fruit that her mother claims for her own.

 

2.  How is the building used to support Tati's physical comedy?  In reference to the tenement, the Villa Arpel, it is referenced as modern, meanwhile au contraire as in comparison to the ruins of Europe; it is rather archaic, devoid of modern advances.  Concerning episodes of "can't take it with you," these apartments weren't well furnished.  It is rather "simply stated," obvious.  It's peoples are rather beastly, as to how distant, as well as hostile this family domicile is.  It is leading, concerning its long, winding stairwells.  His apartment, in particular is so small, like that of a walk in closet.   Once you step in, you're in.  The episode is just like a moving conversation involving Julia Child's "America," concerning the ambiance of this neighborhood, as seen only on the surface.

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  1. It seems that Hulot is a very patient man.  Taking the time to greet his fellow neighbors, he also stops to chat with a young girl, showing his placid, simple side that is emphasized by his walking up to the apartment.    
  2. The building, along with its geometric shapes and nonsensical layout, openly shows the comedic nuances of this particular scene.  It brings out the character of Hulot, as well as emphasizes the environment he lives in, with the neighbors and the local townspeople. 

 

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1. Tati is clever to establish himself as an everyman, in the style of chaplin in that he is kind and hard

working 

 

2. it is interesting that Tati is very seldom standing completely straight up. he's got a hunch to him or he's alignned in a non linear style. This matches the building. He color scheme of him and the building exterior is similar as well. both also look shabby and outdated.

 

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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 friendly, a little bit gullible, slow, and eccentric!

2. How is the building used to support Tati's physical comedy? The eccentricity of the architecture re fits with Hulot's own behavior. Not predictable or what you're expecting!

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Yet another week that I spend catching up with everything on the last day, especially after this week's massive power outage in Puerto Rico... anyway, here are my thoughts on the DDoD#9:

 

Seeing Tati walk to his apartment I could see that he was very friendly, gentleman-like, patient and meticulous, perhaps a bit obsessive-compulsive (the bit with the window pane). The interaction with the girl was the thing that puzzled me the most since I've never seen the film. Why the old lady wouldn't want her to socialize with Tati? was it traditional female overprotection? was it because she knew that the girl was too interested in Tati? judging by her attitude as he came down, I think this was the case.

 

As for the way the building is used, the long walk and all the windows and twists and turns, combined with the long take allow us to follow Tati and see his peculiar walk, the way he "waltzed" a bit around some of the turns. There was a certain grace to his pace which reminded me of the Week 1 conversations about the physicality of comedians and slapstick itself.

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The building serves as a backdrop and set-up for the scene. Its a odd-looking building which we notice. He has a long walk to the top with many twists and turns which he uses body action to make a slow walk more interesting. 

The fiddling with the window made me think of Charlie Chaplin and then we see his kindness to the songbird to use the window position to shine some light into its life.

From the start to the end where he takes the piece of candy because it was offerrred we are convince this is a kind man who takes life as it presents itself. 

The walk up the steps more than down, the window scene and taking the candy were the best show of comedy.

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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?

 

Having never seen Mon Oncle, for this scene only I can imagine that Hulot is a lovely, likeable old bachelor. He likes to offer fruits to his neighbors and is a very innocent, child-like character, because the tomato seller gets mad at him for dropping the tomatoes and Hulot doesn’t say it was a little girl who did that and ran away. He also is OK with his neighbor’s prank with the sticky candy.

 

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

 

I just loved the way we see Hulot going through his whole building in order to arrive in his apartment. I loved that we must follow him whenever he passes by a window, and we keep waiting to see where he is going next. Obviously, he is good enough to not complain about doing that every day, several times a day. Then, we have a small gag with an apparently squeaky window that turns out to be the way Hulot plays with a little bird in a cage. Last, poor Hulot must cross the whole building again to go down. They are both near-silent gags, and I believe the building could have been used in a silent comedy (starring Keaton, preferably).

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I have never seen Mon Oncle before, but the visual background scene, paired with the gentle musical score seems vastly differently than the wildly exaggerated and busy scenes from the typical slapstick routine.

 

1)  As we watch Mr. Hulot walk up to his apartment, the viewer can already determine that he seems to be a very friendly, easygoing man.  He's content to walk the obstacle course that is this apartment building all the way to the top.  He doesn't mind being fussed at by the shopkeeper at the market and the mother when offering treats to the girl.  Mr. Hulot also takes the candy prank in stride as he goes about his day.  He seems very kind and neighborly, not at all the mischievous and exaggerated characters we have seen in other slapstick routines.

 

2)  The windows allow us to follow Mr. Hulot as he walks through the building....we anticipate where he'll go next.  The stairs..... ah, the stairs.  There are so many!  He goes up, he goes down, he goes around.  I couldn't help but shake my head as he headed for yet another set of stairs.  

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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?

 

My response: Hulot is a man who enjoy's the simple life, without any complications or cares in the world. He's friendly, not entirely bright (far from it, if you watch the movie itself), and rather easygoing. There isn't anything that would make you dislike him.

 

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

 

My response: It's funny that every single day, when he decides to go out for a stroll or goes back home, he has to go through that entire building twice (or even more) just to go to and from his apartment. It's Tati's own brand of physical exaggeration.

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Hulot plods along with a graceless stride that matches his rumpled hat and trench coat. He's the clown of this absurd world as he clearly sticks out in a crowd. The building adds to the absurdity with the sheer complicatedness of windows, stairs and doorways that makes entering and leaving an all-day chore. It's like one of those jokes that is kind of funny the first time it's told, then annoying on the second telling, but by the fifth time you've heard it, you'll be rolling on the floor.

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

 

The camera remains stationery. You see him visually through windows, climbing stairs, and going outside. He is a polite man and friendly with his neighbors. The sound is abstract with voices. His other films just have the din of voices. You are watching his performance. When he manipulates the window, you think it is because it is not working correctly. Then you see the bird in the cage and how the light shining on its cage makes it sing.

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Robinlee and Bluboo, I didn't even make it an hour though I did try. I had hopes that eventually there would be something to truly identify it as slapstick, but as others observed, there was only the ritualism of a mildly OCD Frenchman. The behavior of his relatives in their oh-so-modern block house was mildly amusing but not enough to make me want to watch any further.

 

I would call the bit with the fish and the dog slapstick. Or maybe "Implied slapstick" or "almost slapstick"? Nothing every really happened with it. I was waiting for the dog to grab the fish and for Mr. Hulot to walk away without noticing his fish was gone. The bit with the falling tomato was similar. It could almost be called violent (because of the fall/splat), but wasn't quite, and it didn't result in a full-scale food fight or a chase, as some earlier slapstick films might have.

 

I'd say it's physical humor, but doesn't quite meet all the criteria laid out in this course to meet the definition of "slapstick."

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After seeing this scene, I feel that Monsieur Hulot is a genial man with a caring attitude. He is simple and he is shown as an affectionate person when he gives apple to the landlord's niece. 

The building's staircase supports Tati's physical comedy as he goes up and down the stairs in this whole clip.

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