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Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday

Director: Jacques Tati

France| 1953. Black and white. 86 mins


Tati’s best-known and most popular film, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is a comedy of seaside manners that’s set, like Jour de fête, in an authentic location at holiday time. Hulot’s isolation and unconventionality is immediately established (though he scarcely seems aware of it himself); he arrives (and leaves) alone, in his own, rather eccentric car, whilst the other visitors to the seaside resort seem to come in groups. Much of the film’s humour arises from Hulot’s (unintentional) disruption of the dull, peaceful existence of the other guests.
The film is composed of gently satirical detail which draws our attention to the farcical absurdities of a typical seaside holiday-not least its tedium (looking for lost tennis balls, for instance) and regimentation (the holidaymakers do exercises on the beach in groups, and return en masse to the hotel for their meals at the sound of a bell). There is an ironic truth in the fact that the potential warm community spirit surfaces at the moment of departure and separation more than any other time. A melancholy feeling of ineffectuality-emphasised by the unfulfilled relationship between Hulot and Martine, a girl he meets-hangs over the end of the film. If it seems to be the movie’s weakness, it is perhaps also its point.
Plus Soigne ton gauche/Watch Your Left, which features Tati as a gawky farmhand with dreams of becoming a champion boxer. (Director: Rene Clement. 1936. Black and white. 16mm. 20 mins.)

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