Tati’s swansong is a delightful circus act (and quite literally, and dazzlingly so) as he implicates artists, entertainers and audience members alike in the performative.
Dir. Jacques Tati
1974 | France/Sweden | Comedy/Family | 89 mins | 1.37:1 | French, Swedish & English
G (passed clean)
Cast: Jacques Tati, Karl Kossmayer, Pierre Bramma
Plot: A series of circus acts hosted by Jacques Tati, and performed for a family audience.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
Subject Matter: Light
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Jacques Tati’s swansong hasn’t been well-regarded by many critics, which is a shame, because while it isn’t a terrific film when compared to the likes of his great classics like Mon Oncle (1958) or Playtime (1967), Parade is still a delightful last act to a singular career.
Made as a TV movie, Parade is a filmed circus performance that runs for as long as the film’s runtime, with a multitude of performing acts that include dancing, singing, juggling, music performances, gags and mimes.
The acts are impressive but not at all coherent, and at times feels like they are a rehearsal of something greater or more refined. Nevertheless, the seemingly freewheeling, unfocused, uneven, and random stage activities contribute to its haphazard organicity.
With Tati himself appearing in numerous segments to host the ‘parade’, as well as to perform mimes (hilariously if I may add) that he had been known for early in his career, Parade is at once a dazzling endeavour and a trip down memory lane for his most ardent fans.
While Tati has throughout his career implicated viewers in the act of seeing, in Parade he does something more radical—he implicates the audience who are viewing the circus acts.
We see audience members spontaneously react to what is happening on the stage, sometimes joining in the act itself—a sequence involving people trying to mount stubborn ponies is unforgettable.
By seeing the audience as artists and entertainers themselves, and implicating them in the performative, Tati pays tribute to us viewers who have been supportive towards and moved by his participatory creations over the decades. In that sense, our love for him as an artist par excellence is never unrequited.