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28 October 2014
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U Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (Les Vacances de M Hulot) (1953)
Reviewed by Jamie Russell

updated 1st July 2003

reviewer's rating
four star



Director

Jacques Tati
Writer

Jacques Tati
Henri Marquet
Pierre Aubert
Jacques Lagrange
Star

Jacques Tati
Nathalie Pascaud
Michèle Rolla
Louis Perrault
Length

89 minutes
Distributor

BFI
Original

1953
Cinema

8th August 2003
Country

France
Genre

Classic
Comedy
World Cinema

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Widely regarded as the best excursion for Jacques Tati's alter ego Monsieur Hulot, this whimsical comedy builds on the work of American silent stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, to produce a French variation on the art of slapstick.

Taking a vacation at the seaside resort of Brittany, confirmed bachelor Monsieur Hulot creates unintentional havoc among the hotel guests with his well-meaning but terribly clumsy antics.

A mime turned filmmaker, Tati possessed a great sense of visual comedy. There's little dialogue in "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday", mainly because the writer-star-director is more interested in sight gags, sound effect jokes, and the inimitable mannerisms of his hero.

As with all the best slapstick, Tati's theme is the cruelty of the physical world. Nothing in "Monsieur Hulot" acts quite how it ought to. Every object has a mind of its own - from the canoe that folds in half while being rowed, to the foxskin rug that attaches itself to Hulot's foot - and each appears to be intent on causing as many pratfalls, bumps and bruises as possible.

In his later films - like the excellent "Playtime", in which Hulot is let loose in a high-tech Paris - Tati took this theme to its logical conclusion, turning it into a pointed comment on the mechanized modern world and the individual's precarious place in it. But in "Monsieur Hulot", there's an acceptance of these problems as an inevitable fact of existence.

Hulot may be a clown, but he's a happy one. Unlike the majority of his fellow guests, he's intent on enjoying his holiday and making sure that everyone else does too. It's this grace under pressure that makes Hulot such a lovable character and "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday" the best film of Tati's far from prolific career.




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