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Not making money in Paris


Jacques Tati
Jules Engel Film-maker
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Somebody told him [Jacques Tati] that I was in Paris. Because, you know, I was from UPA, that was big, that was big, and Mr Magoo and all that stuff. And so they called me - and the interesting thing was, when I went over to his studio and I walked into the place, I didn't recognize him because he was tall. He was 6' 4”, 6' 5” tall, but he had so much weight on him and very exquisite clothes. Beautiful clothes, beautiful but you know, just excellent- it didn't look like Tati because he had to lose 40 pounds or more to do his next film, you know? Because you would - and I couldn't believe when I walked in there and I finally met him, he didn't look like Tati because he had about 40, 50 pounds extra on him. But when he was ready for shoot, then he was back to his yesterday and he lost the… all that weight. I don't know how the hell he did that but he... But anyway, you see, he had never had any actors. He maybe had one actor in all those films. So what happened… and next to his studio there was a… whatever it was. And they had windows, sometimes very low, the windows, you know? So Tati was coming to the studio and there's a girl was sitting, sitting on the - you know, when the thing goes up, you can sit there. So this girl is sitting there and cleaning the windows, okay? And Tati goes by it and he looks at this girl, this woman and, 'Will you please come and see me?' My God, she became the leading lady of his new film which ran for 2 hours. And she's the lead! She's the lead! And Tati just walked by, and she'd never acted before, nothing, she's washing the windows. And Tati goes by and sees her, invites her, next thing you know, she's on her way to make-up and everything. She's a lead. But you see, that can happen over there. It could never, never happen here. And I don't think if she - I don't know whether she did any other film, but that was a 2-hour film, a big film. I think that was Tati's… Tati's last film, I think so. But he was a wonderful person. And he was - he said to me, because he was on a, on a bicycle. He said, 'Look, if my friend's sick, I get on my bike and I go over there and I visit. If I'm sick, he gets on his bike, he comes and visits. Simple as that. Simple as that'. A bicycle, back and forth, you know? That was Tati. But to lose 50 pounds - or 40 pounds, like that, how he did it, I don't know. Because the next time I saw him, he was Tati, you know? It's one of those nicer events out of Paris.

The late Hungarian-American film-maker Jules Engel is best known for his contribution to the field of animation. His work includes the dance sequences in Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' and the creation of 'Mr Magoo'. His films and lithographs are housed in museums all over the world and have won many awards.

Listeners: Bill Moritz Tamara Tracz

William Moritz received his doctorate from USC and pursues parallel careers as filmmaker and writer. His forty-four experimental and animation films have been screened at museums in Paris, Amsterdam and Tokyo, among others. He published widely on Oskar Fischinger, James Whitney, Bruce Conner, the Fleischers and 200 pages of animation history for an AbsolutVodka website. He wrote chapters for the "Oxford History of Cinema", appeared in several television documentaries, curated art exhibits and received a lifetime achievement trophy from the Netherlands Royal Academy for his work with visual music. He has served on film festival juries and received an American Film Institute filmmaking grant. His poetry and plays are also performed and published. He is a leading expert of Oskar Fischinger and recently published a biography of him. He teaches at The California Institute of the Arts.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Mr Magoo, United Productions of America, Jacques Tati

Duration: 3 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008