M. Hulot’s Holiday / Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot
d. Jacques Tati / 1953 / France / 114 min
Channelling all of the silent comedy tradition’s finest visual gags and pratfalls, this is Tati’s remarkably delightful masterpiece. It has aged somewhat, I suppose – its gentler pleasures now replaced with an often more nuanced style of visual comedy, but it remains charming nonetheless.
Interestingly, of the dialogue that does exist in this largely mute classic, much of it regards politics and there is a question – as exists with all similar narratives – regarding who exactly is the ‘crazy’ one in such situations? Is it Hulot, with his strange mannerisms and odd ways, or is it all the ‘ordinary’ vacationers, who are nevertheless much more neurotic and uptight.
This is a restored version (apparently restored to Tati’s ‘final’ version from the 1970s after twenty-odd years of meddling), but it does beg the question – as did F. W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh – as to what constitutes the ‘authentic’ version of such a film, and does such a concept of ‘authenticity’ ever really exist in the commercial cinema, when the final product has often been diluted by everyone from producers and studio bosses, to censors, distributors and exhibitors.
And since the World Cup is on at the moment, here’s a little slice of topical Tati magic: