Criterion Collection Pick of the Week: M. Hulot’s Holiday

M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

Director: Jacques Tati

Country: France

Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.

Hope everyone enjoyed their two weeks off!  Good news: there are six weeks to go in the semester.  Bad news: Conference week is coming soon.  There’s a way to get around it all, however: daydream.  Think back to the wonderful vacation you had back in March.  Was it at the beach alone?  With your closest friends? Or, did it feel as if your whole town came and dominated the area?  And did a bumbling yet innocent person tag along?  If you said “yes” to the last two questions, relish this film as you’re thankful that you are not there (and by “there,” I mean the French beaches).

The film is about a vacation at the beach.  M. Hulot is an average man who is confused by his surroundings and enjoys his time of peace and quiet around what appears to be the entire population of a French metropolis city gathered together at the same location.  Mayhem ensues.  Uptight workers of the tourist attraction get angry.  And, surprisingly, no one has a bad nautical-wear day.  Except for M. Hulot.

This film jumped-started a trilogy that feature Tati’s M. Hulot in Mon Oncle (1958; winner of a foreign language film Oscar) and Playtime (1972).  If you are in love with caffeine, drink up.  The uniqueness of Tati’s style is that the jokes are not always up-front.  Some are in places that one may miss due to a movement of a handle or a character, or reappear later on.  Wide eyes and a clear mind are required for full enjoyment of this film.  The short running time didn’t give me a headache, but this would be the simplest M. Hulot film.  Mon Oncle and Playtime are definitely more complex and much longer.  The film is enjoyable as well as a good training tool for finding all of the jokes.

While the focus is on the jokes, there is little dialogue.  Good for those who hate reading subtitles all the time, but with the small amount, there are great volumes to be said about this film for its subtle silence, to break grounds, and still feel entertaining rather than slow.  Besides, the dialogue would get in the way of finding and thinking through the jokes, which is the highlight of the film about vacations and vacations galore.  Especially at this stage in the year, I could use another break.


Image Credit: Google Images

Screenwriter. Humanities scholar. Cinephile. Samantha hails from Richmond, Virginia. She hates Hollywood synergy and people that get on her nerves. When she's not busy writing her next masterpiece or watching movies on Netflix and Hulu Plus, she serves on Student Senate, Student Life, SSSF, and SLAC where she tries to make "home" a better place for other students. Samantha would also like for people to understand that she loves Jean-Luc Godard films, even though he's anti-semitic and she's a Jew.

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