M Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

17 08 2008

I was actually expecting this to be a lot more old-fashioned than the subsequent films in the “M. Hulot” series. Even at the very beginning of his career, Tati had a knack for long, uninterrupted takes with very little dialogue. Actually, I found this to be a bit more contemplative and relaxed than Trafic, which felt a little over-edited at certain points. Here, the cuts are much more gentle but still precise, not unlike Ozu’s famed “pillow-shots.” In fact, M Hulot’s Holiday does play out a bit like a full-length feature of pillow-shots, which indicates its best qualities as well as its worst.

Monsieur Hulot goes on holiday at a seaside resort, but his presence leads to anything but rest and relaxation for those around him. No matter what he’s doing, he always seems to bring out the worst of a situation. Even when he first enters the resort, he produces an unpleasant experience for the other residence of the resorts. His unintentional clown act invites the attention of a young woman named Martine. She finds Hulot extremely charming, though probably for reasons that Hulot himself is not aware of. As expected, there relationship never quite gets going due to all the comedic problems that come with Hulot.

Like all of Tati’s films, this one is a bit limited by the fact that it is a series of visual slapstick comedy gags spread out for a full feature. Many of the bits are wonderful, funny, and sometimes even truthful but others go on for too long. There is something limiting about all of Tati’s films, in the sense that they are confined to the same sort of emotional level. That isn’t to say that all of Tati’s films are empty, but that they never go beyond the poignancy that comes with Monsieur Hulot’s hijinks. Yes, there is a somewhat sad story underneath all of the laughs, but it feels too unimportant overall. As it stands, Play Time is the most perfect representation of Tati reaching something emotionally substantial while still being completely entertaining. This comes close, but it still seems like Tati is trying to figure himself out, in a cinematic sense.



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