This appeared in the Autumn 1976 Sight and Sound, and I hope I can be excused for omitting the article that occasioned it, Lucy Fischer’s “’Beyond Freedom and Dignity’: an analysis of Jacques Tati’s Playtime,” that was included in the same issue. (In her subsequent book-length bibliography of writings about Tati, Fischer omitted this Afterword, along with much else, so I guess that this exhumation of my Afterword without her article could be interpreted as some form of tit fortat. But in fact, I don’t have the rights to her piece, which I don’t believe has ever been reprinted. However, even though I fully realize that most college students prefer to ignore texts that they can’t find on the Internet, this is a piece well worth looking up in a well-stocked library.)
Beginning with a quote from an article by B.K. Skinner entitled “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” -– “We attempt to gain credit for ourselves by disguising or concealing control” –- Fischer’s article sets about attempting to refute my claims that Playtime was a fulfillment of Andre Bazin’s claim that the “long-take style” accorded more freedom to the viewer by showing how Tati’s own style guides the viewer in various ways and towards certain details through his uses of color, camera movement, and sound.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Spring 1976). –- J.R.
If Numéro Deux is the most important film of Jean-Luc Godard in nearly a decade — specifically, since 2 ou 3 Choses que je sais d’elle -– one should explain at the outset what gives these films privileged places within his oeuvre. Focusing in 35mm and wide screen on a fictional working-class family, both are essentially bound up in issues of representation, and neither allies itself to any organized political faction or has any links with the Dziga-Vertov Group and/or Jean-Pierre Gorin. The point of this distinction is that Godard’s pre-eminence has always stemmed directly from his grasp of the problems of representation — a line of inquiry leading from the jump-cuts of Breathless to the fragmented double-images of Numéro Deux -– and that his political commitments have always been inscribed within this concern; it is highly debatable whether he has contributed anything of value to political thought apart from this context. Yet broadly speaking, the increasing emphasis in his work after 2 ou 3 Choses — in La Chinoise,Weekend, 1 + 1, Le Gai Savoir and all the subsequent ventures — has until now been more on the ‘signified’ (subject) and less on the ‘signifier’ (manner of representation), away from investigation and towards didacticism.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Winter 1976/77). -– J.R.
Jacques Tati, by Penelope Gilliatt
(Woburn Press, £ 2.95). A good example of Sunday supplement journalism, this thumbnail sketch — the first book in English devoted to Tati — shares roughly the same virtues and limitations as Gavin Millar’s Omnibus programme on him last spring: a warm, ample sense of the comic’s personality and opinions is coupled with a meagre grasp of his art. Basically derived from a New Yorker Profile, but decked out with a pleasant assortment of stills, Gilliatt’s slim volume hops from interview material to favourite recollected gags and back again without so much as hinting at the radical complexity of any single shot and its accompanying sounds in any Tati film, restricting its focus to a set of stray details retrieved out of context. To settle for this sentimental reduction of Tati’s genius is roughly tantamount to reducing [James Joyce’s] Ulysses to Joseph Strick’s greeting card version. But Hulot fans who feel that Tati’s importance rests chiefly on his charm as a performer should have little cause for complaint.
… Read more »