A film about art, creativity, entertainment and its reception
Tati's last movie plays in and around a circus performance. You get to see the acts, good and bad, the artists behind the scenes and the audience, from entering the arena to the audience reactions.
Two things strike you:
The artists are always creating and doing things. They are painting, acting, playing, juggling, whether on stage or behind the scenes. They never stop being creative. Tati shortens the creative process and mainly focuses on what is perceived by the artists and the audience/at the intersection. Sometimes, the acts of the artists will clash with each other, sometimes they are complimentary. Some acts are good, some misfire.
This is where the audience really comes in. Watch the audience reactions. Tati has set the scene from the beginning, showing you the cross section of the typical audience attending, making fun of some signs of the time and contrasting it against ... well, have a look at what is placed in the audience section; Tati leaves some hints as to what he thinks of those attending the show/art parade - critique is mixed with compliments and acceptance. The audience (a nice selection) will become involved in the creation of the art - in fact it appears impossible to separate the artists from the audience at times. The audience reactions are also telling - Tati shows us typical audience behavior from overbearing enjoyment to boredom. The placement of these reactions is very deliberate - there is a lot to pick up on and I suggest to view the movie a few times, focusing on different aspects of it.
Typical for a Tati movie there is some whimsy and the humour sways between slapstick and subtle satire. It is telling that Tati attempts to show a cross section of modern (for the times) and old fashioned especially in the music. In this he embraces both old and new. The film ends in a scene that shows that creativity and art leads to inspiration, where it counts and where it is allowed to grow.
Don't watch this as a circus movie; watch this as an art process and suddenly you will see a plot in the movie that is otherwise very easy to miss. This movie is Tati's final statement about art; it is not his most accessible movie and will probably only appeal to you, if you are willing to watch the movie a few times and spend some time thinking about it in between. So, not recommended for casual viewing.
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