Parade (1974)

“It is when Tati is on screen that the film shines. He does a few pantomimes. My favourite was his attempt at boxing. His act is coordinated with the drummer to register the punches and the end of the round. It is short, but absolutely hilarious. Other acts are also good. The soccer goalie is a joy, whereas the tennis match is a riot, especially when he performs his mime in slow motion and captures the anguish of the tennis player on every shot to comedic effect.”

‘Parade’, directed by Jacques Tati in 1974, is a French television movie and the last film by the French comedian and mime. Tati, for once, does not play his Monsieur Hulot character, instead the film takes the form of a circus performance, complete with an intermission. Tati plays the ringmaster and chief clown, appearing alongside jugglers, other clowns and musicians. It’s a difficult film to judge. In many ways, this is the purest version of Tati, without any form of narrative artifice or plot, just performing on stage. The comedian is mostly without props or costume, developing scenarios purely through mime and suggestion. The genius of Tati is clear, and the fondness the audience has for the man means that he is able to carry an hour and a half of simple clowning without losing them. There is something curiously Fellini like in the tone and look of this, it’s as though Tati has taken inspiration from the Italian director’s infamous dream sequences, perhaps from ‘City of Women’, and run with it, tapping into an old fashioned music-hall nostalgia. The clowning extends off the central stage, however, as the audience on screen becomes involved in the comedy. The ultimate effect is a curious one, in a way you miss Hulot and feel the loss of the situation-style comedy, but by isolating Tati you gain an appreciation of his skills and perfection.

Would I recommend it? I’d go for ‘Mon Oncle’ or ‘Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot’ first, but this is a good movie for anyone wanting to experience the pure comedy of Tati.

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