Six years have passed since I wrote six essays on each of Jacques Tati’s features for Taschen’s recently released and massive five-volume book package The Definitive Jacques Tati, which actually includes eight contributions by me by reprinting my 1972 interview with Tati for Film Comment without its introduction and my 1983 essay “The Death of Hulot” for Sight and Sound. But I’m credited for nine items, because volume #2, Tati Writes, containing eight screenplays or treatments, includes the never-made Confusion, which erroneously lists me as one of Tati’s three coauthors, along with Jacques Lagrange and Dominique Bidaubayle.
Truthfully, I read this treatment, or some version of it, in French after a few sessions of working with Tati, when I was lent a copy to read overnight, but there’s absolutely nothing in it that can be attributed to me. It occurs to me, however, that my being falsely credited with its coauthorship must correspond to the way a lot of film history gets erroneously recounted and then repeated — basically because such misinformation invariably comes from institutions such as studios or publishers that try to rationalize gaps in knowledge and understanding — and because authorship is routinely assigned on the basis of who gets paid.… Read more »
Recently reseeing George Cukor’s scandalously neglected Travels with My Aunt (1972) helps to clarify how central self-images and sensual discoveries are to his best as well as his most personal films. Travels with My Aunt isn’t on the same level as Sylvia Scarlett (1935), A Star is Born (1954), and Bhowani Junction (1955), probably my favorites, but it often seems just as personal, and it does have some of the superbly intricate and dispersed ‘Scope compositions that one often finds in the latter two, as well as in Les Girls (1957) and Let’s Make Love (1960), with their own mottled lighting schemes.
(Too bad that Les Girls, also recently reseen, is so unpleasant apart from its choreography and compositions. All the characters are monstrous and the plot is absurd. Why does the Rashomon theme, both here and in Kurosawa’s Rashomon, depend mainly on odious people and motives — unlike Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, which uses a modified version of the same theme and is much kinder to its characters?)
Travels with My Aunt can also be read as a kind of response to the free-wheeling 60s and early 70s, much as Sylvia Scarlett celebrated certain aspects of the free-wheeling and footloose 30s.… Read more »
This was originally published by the French film magazine Trafic in April 1997. (For a later commentary about episode 4a of Histoire(s) du cinéma, which focuses on Alfred Hitchcock, go here.) –J.R.
Trailer for Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma
The following text derives from two particular film festival encounters: (1) a roundtable on the subject of Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma, held in Locarno in August 1995; (2) some time spent with Godard in Toronto in September 1996. I participated in the first event after having seen the first four chapters of Godard’s eight-part video series; unlike the other members of the roundtable — Florence Delay, Shigehiko Hasumi, and André S. Labarthe — I’d been unable to accept Godard’s invitation to view chapters 3a and 3b, devoted to Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, in Switzerland a few days prior to the event. A little over a year later, Godard brought these chapters and a still more recent one — 4a, on Alfred Hitchcock — with him to Toronto, where he was presenting For Ever Mozart, and showed me these three chapters in his hotel room over two consecutive evenings. We also had some opportunities to discuss the series (in English); some of our conversation was recorded, but much of it wasn’t.… Read more »