Jonathan Rosenbaum on Jour de fete

Jour de fete amounts to a kind of stylistic manifesto as well. Most of Tati’s work derives from observation rather than pure invention, inflected by the aesthetic and poetic properties of music, painting, and dance (which is where the invention comes in); everyday details are the basic unit of this enterprise rather than incidents designed to advance a plot. This is why Tati’s films are generally better appreciated by ordinary viewers than by critics and specialists, who tend to be more rigid about what films should be, storywise and otherwise. (Twenty years ago, my film class students were far more responsive to Playtime than were critics like Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, who declared themselves bored and alienated.). Tati’s observation is tempered and structured by aesthetic-poetic imagination and by the perception that all of us, as critic Dave Hickey suggests, are living continuously inside a complex work of art that we call the world and that perhaps only another work of art can teach us to appreciate what’s right in front of us.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Essential Cinema

I like his description of Tati’s aesthetic, but I’m a little thrown off by his declaration that ordinary viewers appreciate Tati better than critics (he wrote this in 1998, which is admittedly over 15 years ago, but I don’t think things have changed THAT much). I don’t know very many ordinary viewers who would even watch a Tati film, much less appreciate it more than film experts – in fact, I actually think most ordinary viewers I know are actually MORE rigid about what a film should be than most film-type people I know who are more open to more different experiences. Maybe my samples are biased? Or maybe things HAVE changed over the past 15 years?

What do you think about this distinction?