The “Definitive” Jacques Tati?


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. I was hired by Tati as a “script consultant” (more precisely, as a spectator, listener, and respondent to some of his ideas) and was paid for this “work” (and generously — about $125, if I remember correctly, because Tati was bankrupt at the time), so, ergo, I must have been the treatment’s coauthor. Except that I wasn’t, even though future readers of The Definitive Jacques Tati are likely to assume otherwise. [12/23/19]


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