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Tati the great observer


Quest for the ideal sound effect
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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Un jour il m’emmène, ça je peux le raconter parce que  j’étais naïf, à l’époque, très jeune, et il m’emmène dans un auditorium et il enregistrait pour Mon Oncle, dont il terminait la poste production. Il enregistrait le bruit d’un verre qui se casse dans la cuisine de Mon Oncle, que Monsieur Hulot casse à un moment donné. Pour trouver le juste son de ce verre il avait mit dans une grande salle d’auditorium, sur le sol, au moins, je n’exagère pas, une douzaine de pierres différentes, du granite, du marbre, du béton, d’etc… et il était entouré de caisses des verres de différentes matières, voire du crystal, et lui tout seul avec un ingénieur du son, il prenait des verres et les laissait tomber sur toutes les surfaces à la recherche du meilleur son possible. Ce son il ne le connaissait pas avant, il le cherchait, il voulait trouver le son qui lui paraîtrait idéal pour cette scène-là. Qu’il soit à la fois un son clair et comique, si possible. Et je regardais pendant… et je ne mens pas… pendant plus de deux heures, j’ai vu Tati cassé des verres,  j’étais assis comme ça et je me disais: «Mais… c’est ça le cinéma ? Tant de temps pour un bruit de verre?».  «Eh oui, c’est ça. Le cinéma, le bon cinéma, le cinéma bien fait, c’est ça. C’est autre chose aussi bien entendu, mais en particulier, c’est ça». Je me rappelle même que à un moment donné un verre est tombé et il ne s’est pas cassé, il a roulé sur le sol et je n’ai pas pu me retenir de rire en voyant ça et Tati m’a regardé, sévère,  et il a fait: «Chuut… interdiction de rire», alors… oui, c’était  des souvenirs inoubliables d’un personnage étonnant Tati, pas facile à vivre, très drôle dans la vie, excellent mime, mime extraordinaire.


One day he brought me into – and I can speak about it as I was quite naive at the time – he brought me into his auditorium where he was recording the sound for Mon Oncle, finishing the post-production stage. He was recording noises for a glass breaking in the kitchen in Mon Oncle, one that Monsieur Hulot breaks at a given time. To find the right sound, he had placed in that very large auditorium room about at least a dozen different stones: granite, marble, concrete and he was surrounded with different boxes for different types of glasses, even crystal, and he was there with a sound engineer, taking the glasses and dropping them on the stones to find which was the best possible sound. The ideal sound. That sound, he didn't know what it was beforehand, he was looking for it, the right one for that scene. A sound that would be both clear and comical, if possible. And I was looking at them for – I'm not lying – for a couple of hours, watching Tati smashing glasses, and I was sitting down and kept thinking, 'But... is this what film-making is about? So much time spent on the sound of breaking glass?' So yes, this is it. Film-making, good film-making, film-making that is high quality, is that. There are other things as well obviously, but particularly that was it. I remember one glass didn't break, and rolled onto the ground, and I could not help but laugh when I saw that, and Tati looked at me, deadly serious, and went, 'Shhhhh... no laughing'. So yes, those were unforgettable memories from an extraordinary character: Tati, not easy to live with, very funny in life, amazing mime, outstanding mime.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (1931-2021) began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He wrote screenplays for films including Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie, Tin Drum and Danton.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati

Duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 26 July 2010