Thursday, April 19, 2007


Yesterday I saw Jacques Tati's Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (M. Hulot's Holiday, 1953),* my fourth Tati film in several weeks. This movie fits very nicely between two others: 1949's Jour de FĂȘte,* and 1967's Playtime.* In '49, Tati examined the turbulence created when a carnival comes to a small town, primarily through the eyes of that town's postman. It insinuated the beginning of a career interest in those frictions created between human nature and modern times. By '67, his theme had reached an apotheosis of world-building, presenting the dismay of characters trapped like rats in a maze of bewildering futurism, organized into a chaotic syncopation mostly divorced from the sensibilities of its inhabitants. It's as if, throughout his career, Tati's characters and their world just grew apart. In Les Vacances..., Tati introduces us to Monsieur Hulot, a genial goof in striped socks and floppy hat. Hulot is heading to a seaside vacation resort where he'll meet odd characters and instigate playful slapstick havoc. Played by Tati himself, Hulot will return throughout his later films. By Playtime, he has been relegated to audience surrogate, experiencing for us the great human-environmental disassociation onscreen; but in '53, Hulot is warmly characterized as a well-meaning act of comic nature: bumbling through the Riviera, driving the chaos. This movie represents a step toward Playtime's dismissal of conventional narrative; the camera wanders around cataloguing the odd beats and patterns of human interaction. Tati is already beginning to relax any dependence on language. By Playtime, the dialog is mostly gibberish, used primarily for humorous effect--here it's offered as an occasional pleasantry. But the large advancement in '53 is in world-building. Tati is still working within recognizable landscapes, but subtly nudging the environment toward tightly-controlled boilerplate notions as a stand-in for the real world. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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