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Jacques Tati movies: A Heart for the Neighborhood

May 29, 2007

I'd heard of JT movies for years. So I finally checked out Holiday and Mon Oncle. All I can say is Wow!

Well, that's not all. These are "foreign" films where you don't have to speak French to understand them. There are hardly any subtitles. (Ah, like the Triplets of Belleville, eh?) It's all visual, universal stuff. What an eye for composition, JT has! And for the way that visuals create story.

It's amazing how artists work, huh? Some create stories without any words, others create stories without any images. Some make stories without a beginning, middle or end. Some skip the story part.

It seems to me that a main angle of JT movies, those I've seen so far, is the contrast between old-neighborhood ways and new hectic ways.

Bikes of all kinds feature steadily in the first. Holiday has a porteur work bike, I note. Mon Oncle has a Velosolex moped.

These movies are a lot like movie versions of "The Man Who Loved Bicycles." They fit together.

These are light movies, but with depth. They're quiet, yet frisky. Slow yet full. Corny yet artful.

Terry Jones of Monty Python ("Pithon") gives intros to both JT movies on DVD---it's funny how for all Jones's glowing insight he pronounces JT's name as "Jack Tatty"---willful Limeyness? I've noticed that before elsewhere. (Do Brits say "Ducks Chivox" for that OYBest of cars?)

Great for the whole family.

Do any other movies show old neighborhoods as well?

I've checked them all out again---the rest of the family didn't see them before. But I had to buy a used copy of Jour de Fete ($10) because there wasn't a copy in the whole statewide library system. Our system is GREAT but has occasional holes.

I'm thinking of getting some inventory of JT flicks for resale. To go with "Man Who" purchases. To keep them both alive and in action!

My boy is 9 and of a mind that life isn't worth living without Gameboy and Pokemon. He doesn't play them that much but is a convert. Fun is the only value. But whenever we do other things he's won over easily. He's not a goner. He has a cousin and a friend, though, who are a bit sad---they really do say No to treeforts, archery, fishing, spear-throwing, atlatls, bike-riding, swimming... For them it's "all box all the time." Ah, but the one has a soft spot for herps (snakes and such) so we work that angle. And there are other little boys starting to migrate daily through the woods to our house... (One morning Martha looked out the window and saw a boy just standing there in Spiderman PJs holding a rubber tomahawk.)

Our girl is 7 and more naturally integrated, of course. (I've heard it said that it's good for a boy to have an older sister and that sure seems to make sense to me.)

JT is going to thrill both kids and their mom, too. What a treat awaits!

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