Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
June 23
October 9, 1908
M. Hulot Arrives

Just eight years into the new century in the Paris suburb of Le Pecq, France, Jacques Tatischeff (which he later shortened to Tati), was born. According to his own story, Tati was a descendent of a Russian aristocratic family who emigrated to France when his father married his Dutch mother, Marcelle Claire Van Hoof. A natural athlete, Tati became a professional rugby player and then later a stage mime who would impersonate athletes. After the war (in which he fought for the free French Army), Tati returned to show business, making a few films and appearing in a number of others. But it wasn’t until 1953, when Tati directed and starred in Mr. Hulot's Holiday, that he found his true comic self. His silent, oblivious, pipe-smoking alter ego Mr. Hulot, bumbling about his life, revealed a world of comic possibilities. But Hulot wasn’t so much the center as the vehicle by which Tati realized his complicated, comic landscape, Rube Goldberg cinematic contraptions that highlighted the absurd, hilarious, often cruel, mostly mechanized modern world. M. Hulot would return in three more comedies: Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967), Traffic (1971). While many came to look on Tati’s humor as a French throwback to golden age of silent-film slapstick (think Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton), others have championed his special touch. As Roger Ebert wrote of Mr. Hulot's Holiday, “It is not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness and good cheer, [giving] us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature––so odd, so valuable, so particular.”


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