114 minutes| France| 1953| Subtitled| Black and White| 35mm

‘Someone with his head on the moon,’ was Jacques Tati’s description of his endearing and enduring creation, Monsieur Hulot, an accident on legs and on whom nothing quite fits, whether it be his redundant umbrella or an obstinately unlit pipe that protrudes obliquely from his mouth. Here a seaside holiday gives ample scope for Hulot’s foibles (e.g. nobody plays tennis the way he does) and for Tati’s droll observation of people desperately trying to enjoy themselves. The imaginative soundtrack adds to the fun and the visual comedy produces some wonderfully strange images: a tyre that becomes a wreath, Hulot’s canoe that capsizes into the shape of a shark. Some find him cool, but Tati’s humour was courteous and never cruel, devoting itself to the defence of the individual against social regimentation. ‘I felt I had been in warm-hearted company,’ enthused Dilys Powell after first seeing this film, ‘and the tears in my eyes were not all tears of laughter.’<

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