Monsieur Hulot goes on a holiday to a seaside resort but accidents and misunderstandings follow him wherever he goes. The hotel guests' peace and quiet doesn't last with Hulot around, because although his intentions are good, they always turn catastrophic.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
People are in a hurry to go on vacation. They rush to the train depot. They speed down the pavement. They are all in an absurd hurry to relax and have no patience for slower traffic or animals. One such slower vehicle is a loud jalopy. It stops in front of a dog sunning itself in the middle of the road. The vehicle's owner honks the horn which sounds delightfully odd. The dog wags its tail but does not move. The horn sounds again and, once again, the dog wags its tail. Finally, the dog gets curious and goes over to the car. A hand reaches out from the car and gently pets the dog before easing the car onward to its destination. The owner of the car is Monsieur Hulot and he, too, is going on vacation. The fact that he is not in a hurry like his fellow vacationers can be attributed to the fact that Hulot lives life at an unhurried pace something that many of his acquaintances neither understand nor appreciate. Hulot is a man who prefers animals to things, play over strategy, summer relaxation over summer business, and freedom over rigid order (the headwaiter at the hotel where Hulot stays is constantly befuddled by this guest).
Monsieur Hulot's Holiday is a funny, touching, and humane look at a summer vacation. As viewers we follow Hulot, an earnest but clumsily unlucky man, through a few blissfully lazy summer days. We share his energy in play (tennis and ping pong). We feel his delight when dancing with a pretty girl at a masquerade party, where few adults have bothered to attend. We are painfully aware of Hulot's embarrassment as he dishes out abuse at a Tom who was not in fact peeping. We laugh, and cringe, at Hulot's valiant but doomed attempts to stop the escalation of an ill-timed fireworks display. Finally, at the film's conclusion, we sense the bittersweet quality with which Hulot ends his vacation, a vacation that has had humor and sadness, adventure and boredom, romance and dejection, in short a vacation full of life.
Director and Hulot star Jacques Tati does not always succeed in making me laugh (although when he does, I laugh heartily), but he always makes me smile. This week was my third go around for Monsieur Hulot's Holiday. I first watched the film a decade ago. I predict I will watch it another three times in the next ten years. I see too many films that offer nothing. Monsieur Hulot's Holiday always leaves me smiling, if somewhat sadly, from ear to ear.
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