Jacques Tati

09.10.1907, Le Pecq, France - 05.11.1982, Paris, France


Tati was a French actor, screenwriter and director. He was born as Jaques Tatischeff and was a descendant of the Russian aristocracy (a grandfather on his father’s side was a general and a military attaché in the Russian embassy in Paris), which enabled him to get a quality education. However, in his youth Jacques showed the most interest in sports and pantomime, often imitating events from sports training. Thrilled with his imitations, his friends advised him to try out acting on stage, which Tati later did, appearing in many theatres and music halls in Paris in 1930s. He transferred his gags to short films such as Oscar, champion de tennis (1932) by Jack Forrester and Soigne ton gauche (1936) by René Clément for which Tati also co-wrote the screenplay. He co-directed the film Gai dimanche (1935). After WW II he directed, wrote the screenplay and acted in the short film L'école des facteurs (1947), a comical portrayal of postmen. Encouraged by the film’s great success, Tati made it into his first feature film Holiday (Jour de fête, 1949). The feature film was also a great success. While two versions were originally made, one black and white and one in color, only the black and white version was shown, due to technical problems, until 1995 when the color film was restored. As early as his first feature film, Tati established the stylistic foundations characteristic of his career. Without a classic plot and professional actors, his films consist of a series of situations and gags with a minimal amount of dialogue, while background noises are enhanced to highlight the action. The relationship of a man who has kept his childlike naiveté and simple-mindedness is contrasted with the complexities of a world altered by technology. Tati introduced the recognizable character of his alter-ego Mr. Hulot in his second feature film Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, 1953). Hulot is the protagonist of his other films such as My Uncle (Mon oncle, 1958), which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1959 and the Special Jury’s Award in Cannes in 1958, and Play Time (1967), which lead to Tati’s bankruptcy, after three years of shooting, as he invested all his money in it. Tati managed to make one more film with Mr. Hulot, Trafic (1971). Afterwards, he made a low-budget film for Swedish television, Parade (1974). The completion of his last project was interrupted by his death in Paris by lung embolism on November 5, 1982.


Filmography as a Director:
Forza Bastia (1978 / 2002) (short, documentary; finished by Sophie Tatischeff 2002)
Parade (1974)
Trafic (1971)
Play Time (1967)
Mon oncle (1958)
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, 1953)
Holiday (Jour de fête, 1949)
L'école des facteurs (1947) (short)
Gai dimanche (1935) (short)

Cours du soir
Soigne ton gauche

Films by this director

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday

(Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, France, 1953)

Directed by: Jacques Tati
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jacques Mercanton, Jean Mousselle

Mr Hulot arrives to a hotel for a vacation on the French coast. He is charming and all the other guests like him, yet his vacation soon becomes strenuous for everybody. Wherever he turns, trouble follows him, though he is completely unaware of it. This film depicts holiday events with the sort of attention to detail typical of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin’s films.

b/w, 83'


(Jour de fête, France, 1949)

Directed by: Jacques Tati
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jacques Mercanton, Jacques Sauvageot

Once a year a fair takes place in a small French town. Local people become more playful than usually and tease the postman François. After they get him drunk, they take him to a tent to see a film about the efficiency of American postal service. François is thrilled with what he has seen and decides to become more effective and speed up the mail delivery. However, American postmen have helicopters and planes at their disposal, while François has just a bike.

b/w, 70'

My Uncle

(Mon oncle, France, Italy, 1958)

Directed by: Jacques Tati
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jean Bourgoin

Mr. Hulot is a member of the working class, currently jobless, living in an apartment in the old part of Paris. Since he has a lot of time on his hands, every day he accompanies his nephew Gérard to school and back to the boy’s house where he lives with his mother, Hulot’s sister, and her husband Mr. Arpel, the owner of a plastics factory. They belong to a higher class and love to flaunt their wealth by filling their minimalist-designed home with fancy equipment.

color, 116'


(France, Italy, 1967)

Directed by: Jacques Tati
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jean Badal, Andréas Winding

Several American tourists arrive in Paris for a day of sightseeing. However, the city has been transformed from a warm romantic destination to a cold modern metropolis built of glass and steel. Mr. Hulot is also in town for a meeting. He gets lost in the city and goes to an exhibition of technological innovations where he meets an old friend from the army.

color, 153'


(France, Italy, 1971)

Directed by: Jacques Tati
PHOTOGRAPHY: Eduard van der Enden, Marcel Weiss

Hulot is a designer in the Altra Motors car company. His last project is a luxurious motor home that has to be taken from Paris to Amsterdam for an exhibition. Accompanied by the driver and the PR manager Maria, Mr. Hulot and the motor home go on a trip. Naturally, everything that can go wrong goes wrong and the group has to work hard to make it in time for the opening of the car exhibition. Will they make it after all?

color, 96'


(France, Sweden, 1974)

Directed by: Jacques Tati
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jean Badal, Gunnar Fischer

Made in the style of a documentary, this film shows a circus performance starring Tati. Men, women and children sit in the audience and are excited to watch the magic show. The Master of Ceremonies announces the performers and acrobats, clowns and singers perform on stage.

color, 84'

L'école des facteurs

(France, 1947)

Directed by: Jacques Tati

This is a comical portrayal of postmen’s lives inspired by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton’s films. Jacques Tati plays François, a young postman trained by his boss to become faster and better on his delivery route. Even though he does great in the classroom, there are many obstacles in the field…

b/w, 13'
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