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on 2 August 2002
Bellos's book sends you back to enjoy the brilliance of Tati's films, which are available on video in the UK (but not dvd which is a shame - the US releases have Python Terry Jones enthusing about Tati). I was recently on holiday in Brittany and chanced upon a small town cinema showing the restored version of Tati's classic 1967 film, Playtime - it was stunning. This book is a very readable account of a fascinating Frenchman and a comic genius. Well worth investigating.
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on 8 January 2001
I must have read a different book to the previous reviewer! The author is highly complimentary about Tati's movies. He does consider him slow moving, but he was! He suggests that Tati was not an intellectual, but so what? As for vain, I think it is made clear that his vanity arises from his pride over his movies.
Tati comes across quite well in the book. The fact that he was a single minded perfectionist who thought he knew best and did not always give others credit is true of 99% of all film makers.
Do not let this review put you off a well written and absorbing book about one of the 20th centuries greats, who just happened to be human.
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on 2 August 2006
I agree that it'd be best to ignore negative reviews of this book. Yes, the author does have a tendency to sprinkle the narrative with unnecessarily obscure words in a manner that appears to be more concerned with showing off his own intellect than telling the story but it doesn't spoil what is, ultimately, a good read. Tati led an interesting life and that Mr. Bellos tells it in context, giving a potted French history lesson into the bargain, is a bonus. The author also rises to the challenge of evocatively putting into words some of the finest moments from Tati's (almost) silent films, reflecting well the art and the genius of the man.
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on 8 January 2001
I must have read a different book to the previous reviewer! The author is highly complimentary about Tati's movies. He does consider him slow moving, but he was! He suggests that Tati was not an intellectual, but so what? As for vain, I think it is made clear that his vanity arises from his pride over his movies.
Tati comes across quite well in the book. The fact that he was a single minded perfectionist who thought he knew best and did not always give others credit is true of 99% of all film makers.
Do not let this review put you off a well written and absorbing book about one of the 20th centuries greats, who just happened to be human.
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on 12 February 2000
I'm puzzled as to why Bellos wanted to write this book in the first place. As he makes clear in the book (through constant repetition) Tati was no "intellectual". He emerges, in Bellos portrait, as indeed something of a clod, rather dull-witted and slowmoving and vain. And not capable of understanding the cultural associations an intellect on the level of, oh say, David Bellos' own might bring to his work. It is, above all else, the continual snide condescension of Bellos' tone that led me more and more to dislike his book. It's not a hatchet job, more like an attempt to kill with 1000 paper-cuts. I find his portrait of Tati highly questionable and not at all generous. If you're interested in reading something about this very great filmmaker ("Playtime" is one of the great artworks of the last hundred years for me) I'd advise the essays in Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Placing Movies" and "Movies as Politics" (awful title). Rosenbaum knew Tati, worked on a film project with him, and also writes about his work with real grace and insight.
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on 12 September 2013
Very detailed and readable, an ideal primer for those who enjoy the talent of Jacques Tati and highly recommended to all.
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on 14 January 2012
Far from producing a well-informed biography of France's greatest cinematic clown, Jacques Tati, instead Bellos ruthlessly dissects. Despite his clinical approach, there is just enough tantalising information about Tati, the brilliant creator of Monsieur Hulot, to hold my attention.

Do I really want to know about the various colour film processes available in France? Not really. Nor do I want to read yet again about the dire financial straits France found itself in after World War I, as well as what was going on in Europe during the years before and after World War II! Acres of text have already been written concerning these times and events.

When I purchase a book purportedly written about one of my all-time favourite comedic heroes, I fully expect to read about the man - nothing else. But instead it seems to me that Bellos has turned his book into an intellectual diatribe against Tati, coldly ripping his memory apart. In fact Bellos is more like a mortician, clinically wishing to expose the body lying on the slab before him by carving it up to look at its many parts, rather than to appreciate the whole. He appears to think of Jacques Tati as nothing more than a mere coincidence in the scheme of things, when in fact the reverse is true.

Now if only someone would write a truly worthwhile biography about Jacques...
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