A clip from YOYO (1965) by Pierre Etaix (co-written with Jean-Claude Carriere). Comparisons with THE ARTIST may prove instructive. He even has a wee dog!

Etaix worked with Jacques Tati as AD on MON ONCLE, and with Bresson as an accomplice in PICKPOCKET, thus forging a link between two artists who are more closely related than one might think. He split with Tati (to the latter’s visible distress) and became a director-star in his own right. But then all his films fell into a copyright-dispute legal black hole and were unavailable for decades. To add to that, one of his major roles as an actor for another filmmaker is in Jerry Lewis’s still-unseen THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED.

Etaix’ films only just emerged from their limbo and are available on DVD in France (buy them! not much French is required). Etaix has been jetting around the world to promote them, and seems to have a new lease of life. He’s been acting in more films, including Aki Kaurismaki’s LE HAVRE, and in 2010, at the age of 82, he directed a short.

Tati wanted to cast Etaix in THE ILLUSIONIST — the magician character was more of a seducer than in Chomet’s eventual animated version, and no way could Tati envisage himself in the role. Chomet, in making the magician a Tati-facsimile, had to de-sex the film. Whereas Etaix can do louche! Comparisons with Tati are inevitable, but misleading — Chaplin and Keaton inform the films, but the cinematic and narrative playfulness at times recalls Woody Allen. Really, he’s his own man.

I think you can also see Carriere’s influence, the kind of crazy jokes you get in ZAZIE DANS LE METRO and VIVA MARIA! — jokes which defy common sense, like the one with the footman’s arm holding the light (my favourite).

Criterion are soon to release a truly essential Eclipse collection of Etaix films, but for the French speakers, there’s already this: Intégrale Pierre Etaix – Coffret 5 DVD

9 Responses to “Yoyo”

  1. Tati’s grandson clarified one of the reasons for the rift between Tati and Etaix in the wake of the release of Chomet’s The Illusionist…
    http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/directors/the-shame-of-jacques-tati.html. The original movie was supposed to be an epic “mea culpa” on Tati’s part with Etaix playing a character based closer on is real self.

  2. Some of MacDonald’s arguments have been disputed — he imputes motivations to Tati we can never be sure of. As far as we know by the direct testimony of individuals involved, Etaix wanted his own career and Tati saw that as a betrayal.

    Maybe Etaix has elsewhere spoken of moral problems with The Illusionist project, but I haven’t read or heard any, and it may be that McDonald is once again putting words in someone’s mouth…

  3. David Boxwell Says:

    That 7-minute clip went down a right treat here. Looking forward to more!

    THE ARTIST’s visibility and viability here in the US is largely a matter of the Weinsteins taking award voters by the scruff of the neck and making them cry uncle.

  4. You know how for years the Weinsteins have sold foreign films by editing trailers together with no dialogue… and if somebody in a French film says “Allo” that’ll be the only line in the trailer. IN A WAY it’s kind of like they’ve hit on the notion of making a whole film like that. I know that’s a cynical way of looking at it, and I’m sure Hazanavicius had slightly more creative ambition than that… but it’s true up to a point.

  5. Great news about the “Eclipse” set! They also have teriffic sets of silnet Ozu, and (a very particular fave of mine) William Klein.

  6. John Seal Says:

    If you haven’t seen Le Havre yet, David, check it out. It’s a beautiful little film…

  7. Oh, I must! Haven’t had a chance yet. Etaix and Kaurismaki seem a lovely combination.

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