Jacques Tati is one of those filmmakers that cinema nerds refer to as auteurs. This is a French term used to describe filmmakers whose work is so distinctive that you could recognize it without doubt. Contemporary examples would be Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese. But among the most distinctive filmmakers of the 20th century is undoubtedly Jacques Tati.
Tati wrote, directed, and starred in a half dozen feature length films (with a few shorts and other projects) from the 1950s into the early 70s. And though he made his films long after the era of silent film, the dialogue in Tati’s films is extremely sparse, instead developing plot through highly cultivated characters and his actors’ ability to communicate physically.
Often compared to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati was an unparalleled physical actor. His recurring protagonist, Monsieur Hulot (played by himself) is as simple, naïve, and comical as Chaplin’s greatest roles, yet distinctly and undoubtedly French.
Some would argue that Mon Oncle (My Uncle) is Tati’s masterpiece, and though I haven’t seen all of his work yet, I would be inclined to agree. Revolving around the notion of modernity and luxury, Mon Oncle paints a sharp contrast between the ultra-automation of modern culture and the charm of classic French life.
The humor of Mon Oncle is built primarily around repeated jokes and masterful sight gags. As boring as a film with very little dialog may sound, Mon Oncle is among the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
When we sat down to watch Mon Oncle earlier in the week, we tried something new to drink combining dry vermouth, lillet, and sparkling water. The result was light, refreshing, and surprisingly complex, fitting for the film. We named it a French Spritzer.
2 oz dry vermouth
2 oz Kina Lillet
top with sparkling water
Pour the vermouth (we used Noilly Prat) and lillet into a tall glass and stir. Add a couple handfuls of ice and top with sparkling water. You can also garnish with a twist of lemon.