Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

“Hulot– H — U — L — O — T.”

Synopsis:
Bumbling Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) visits a seaside hotel in Brittany, where he accidentally causes mayhem.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary — along with just about every other critic on the planet (see links below) — considers this Jacques Tati classic to be “as enjoyable as a day at the beach.” He praises the “intricate visual gags”, the “enjoyable slapstick”, and the “appealing”, “childlike” nature of Hulot, and notes that “much laughter comes from watching Hulot’s fellow vacationers.” For my part, however, I fail to see the appeal of the film on any comedic level. While it’s visually beautiful to look at, the vacationers aren’t intriguing in the slightest, and Monsieur Hulot is, quite simply, not funny: his strange, stork-like walk holds interest for about three seconds, then quickly becomes both redundant and ridiculous; his sight gags seem like they would be amusing only for the very young. Indeed, I can understand the appeal of …Holiday for families with children — it’s an innocent, innocuous movie, and kids may very well appreciate watching a silly-looking man making a fool of himself again and again. Ultimately, however, I consider Tati to be wearing Emperor’s Clothing — everyone insists there’s genius to be had, but I’m just not seeing it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An interesting “time capsule” glimpse at vacationers in 1950s France
    Beach
  • Beautiful b&w cinematography
    Cinematography
  • Some genuinely sweet images — such as a young boy in diapers carefully carrying two ice cream cones
    Ice Cream
  • A few mildly clever sight gags — such as when Hulot’s paint can is washed out to sea and then back again, just in time
    Paint

Must See?
Yes. Though it’s not at all to my tastes, this remains an undisputed classic of world cinema, and should be seen by all film fanatics.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)”

  1. In total agreement with 99% of the assessment – meaning, all of the reasons stated here against this film are exactly why I do not consider it a must.

    This movie is a CRASHING BORE!

    And its deadly pacing, on top of everything else, keeps it from even being appropriate for children.

    It’s mind-numbingly awful. In one particularly STUPID sequence, Hulot is held captive in a kind of collapsible kayak which, upon collapsing, sends sun-bathing tourists running in terror of a ‘shark’. My, how droll! Or, more to the point, how idiotic.

    Somewhere along the line, a bandwagon was put in place to champion what is apparently French cinema’s answer to Charlie Chaplin – accompanied, oddly here, by the super-imposed sensibility of Ozu.

    To no avail. Nothing here works on any forced level.

    There is, in tow, the underlying commentary – by way of radio broadcasts, etc. – that implies that the whole film is a comment on the French themselves.

    Who gives a merde?

    OK, so today it’s considered a part of classic cinema. Doesn’t mean we have to support the madness.

    As perfectly stated, ‘Emperor’s Clothing’.

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