Over the Christmas period there was a magnificent season of Jacques Tati films on TV. For those who do not know about him, here is my little potted blog as a fond tribute to this genius.
Jacques Tatischeff – as he was born – came from Russian, Dutch and Italian descent. He was to become one of France’s most famous actors, filmmakers and screenwriters. Excelling as a boy in sports, at an early age he was also a mimic – leading to his famous character in most of his films that of Monsieur Hulot. This was the awkward man wearing a funny hat and trademark raincoat, a pipe always stuck in place, true French style , and an accentuated body stance leaning precariously forward.
I remember going to see Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot when I was at school. We had a marvellous French teacher, Miss Adam , who encouraged us to see the film and it remains with me to this day. Just watching it now after nearly 50 years in France and it still makes me laugh! It centres around the holiday adventures of people coming to a small seaside resort on the Loire Atlantique. The hotel featured is Hotel de la Plage, aaptly named and still there. On the beach there is a statue erected in memory of Tati.
In his first major feature film Jour de Fête (1947) was filmed in a small village called Saint Sévère sur Indre, where he found refuge during the war and where he later lived at the end of his life. All the cast were the locals of the village, which adds to its raw charm. Tati plays a slightly demented postman riding around the countryside on his rickety bicycle.
In another film, 'Playtime', he constructed a whole city made of glass and steel called “Tativille”– it took nearly 9 years to build and film. This eventually landed him with crippling debt in his final years of ill health and family disputes. I also watched “The Illusionist” an animated caricature of Tati, which is about a relationship between father and daughter, and was in truth about his failure in recognising his first born daughter. It is beautifully set in Scotland, notably in Edinburgh, and is a masterpiece to my mind despite all the difficulties behind it. See for yourself on Youtube? Merci, Monsieur Tati.
What does a mayor in France really do? I certainly didn’t realize until I lived here. He. or she. is first and foremost the chairperson of the local council and as such a representative of the state of his /or her commune. Monsieur le maire/mairesse is the official title and our mayor of Salignac is Monsieur Jean Pierre Dubois. He is now in the middle of the third term of office being elected each 6 years in succession. He is responsible for nearly every aspect of rural life here. From the head of the local police , the tourist office , births, deaths and marriages, to the continuous upkeep of the roads, education and healthcare. He also has a full time job as an advisor for the agriculture office but he is very hardworking and dedicated too as the mayor. He also elects a deputy mayor who takes charge of many administrative tasks and of the staff at the mairie. He delegates to his team specific aspects of the commune.
He has said that he likens the job to looking after a family house but on a much bigger scale . Each day is different with varied tasks to accomplish. I think I have spoken before of him as he is a very charismatic man and when he does the “Bises” ie the kisses on two cheeks I still blush like a schoolgirl!
I am a bit early to advertise this but wanted you to be one of the first to know. I am running an Easter Dance Course in Contemporary Dance (Cunningham) from the 2nd to the 5th April 2016. This will be in collaboration with Le Temps de Vivre(campsite) for accommodation, I think it will be a unique event. A chance to enjoy the beautiful area in which we live and also maybe learn something new?
M e r c i !
January 2016 “Fifi’s story from rural France”.