In the Modernist Mirror: Jaque Tati and the Parisian Landscape

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In the Modernist Mirror: Jacques Tati and the Parisian Landscape Author(s): Lee Hilliker
Source: The French Review, Vol. 76, No. 2 (Dec., 2002), pp. 318-329 Published by: American Association of Teachers of French
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3132711
Accessed: 25/11/2009 13:02
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THEFRENCH EVIEW,ol. 76, No. 2, December2002 Printedn U.S.A.
V
R

In the Modernist Mirror:
Jacques Tati and the
Parisian Landscape
by LeeHilliker
Les clefs de l'urbanismesont dans les
quatrefonctions: habiter,travailler,se
recreer(dans les heures libres),circuler.
L'urbanismeexprimela maniered'etre
d'une epoque.
Le Corbusier, La Charted'Athenes
(sec. 77)

that filmmaker Jacques Tati ever read Le Corone of the principal theorists of architectural modernism, but the busier,
work of these two otherwise quite disparate artists shows a surprising affinity for particular themes of modern urban experience. In La Charte d'Athenes, conceived at the 1933 meeting of the Congres Intemationaux d'Architecture Moderne as a guide for thinking about the present and future of cities, Le Corbusier divides urban life into four functions for purposes of analysis and suggestion.1 These categories-habitation, loisirs, travail, circulation-could well define the entire corpus of Tati's feature film career, which was contemporaneous with the great wave of social and cultural change in France after World War II. Tati was one of very few filmmakers to investigate in any depth the evolving technologicalsocial nexus of French society in this period of the 1950s and 60s that saw massive and rapid urbanization, shifts in structures and patterns of work and leisure, and the expansion of the automobile sector within the context of a developing consumer culture. In his first feature, Jourdefete in 1948, Tati focuses on the importation of new and sophisticated methods of mail transportation into a rural community, while in the second, Les Vacances de M. Hulot from 1953, leisure time and the automobile are major themes. In 1958's Mon oncle the burgeoning car culture of France is a principal player, while Tati also begins IT

IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY

318

JACQUES TATI AND THE PARISIAN LANDSCAPE

319

here to take a close look at urban Paris. In Playtime almost ten years later (1967), the director concentrates exclusively on the contemporary urban environment, in an era when official policy in Paris decreed conversion to modernism along the lines theorized by Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus architects in the twenties and thirties.2 In this middle or architectural period of the 1958 and 1967 films, Tati takes on the city by investigating the new physical spaces in which particular groups and individuals...
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