Parade (1973, Jacques Tati)

A tumbling act vaults in different styles according to their costumes (hockey players, military parade). Magicians one-up each other. The audience participates. We go backstage and into the lobby. Tati mimes at different sports (badminton, soccer, fishing)…


Not a documentary of a circus performance but a film (make that a video, one of the first video-shot features, after 200 Motels) with a circus performance in it. Doesn’t look like an existing, functioning circus but a soundstage with paid extras for audience members, complete with choreographed “backstage” scenes. Amused me as well as any real circus (and more than Fellini’s The Clowns). Video quality on my copy was below average, but the editing (and lack of talking heads/announcers/titles) differentiates it from, say, a period PBS special on a circus, and the pacing would confirm Tati as director, rather than simply performer, even if his name wasn’t there in the credits. Whole thing has an attractive draw to it… I liked it better than I thought I should, can’t say just why.


Rosenbaum has a good theory: “[a] gag is more likely to make us smile than laugh; but the cumulative effect of dozens of such underplayed gags is to make reality itself seem both slightly off-kilter and alive with comic possibilities––every moment brims with potential gags that often require an audience’s alert participation in order to be noticed at all.” He has written a long, perceptive article which makes me want to watch this again immediately.

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