Take a Drink: for unintelligible announcements
Take a Drink: for hats and pipes
Take a Drink: for horses
Take a Drink: for taffy
Take a Drink: for loud music
Take a Drink: for door shenanigans
Take a Drink: for hotel accidents
Do a Shot: for Hulot’s Nadal-level tennis skills
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Watching Playtime cold a few weeks ago catapulted Jacques Tati into the top ranks of my favorite filmmakers, so it was a matter of time before I got around to the rest of his too-small oeuvre. Would it hold up as well as the work of other slapstick greats like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Rowan Atkinson, who never seemed to have made a bad choice?
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday introduced the world to Tati’s signature creation, the bumbling, hat-wearing, pipe-smoking Mr. Hulot, as he goes on holiday to the beach and suffers/enjoys a series of comic misadventures there.
It’s a bit difficult to grade this film, because while Tati would develop his Mr. Hulot character more later on, and put him in situations with more to say about society and the human experience, without this film there would be no such character. Mr. Hulot was endlessly influential, and you can see how he inspired Peter Sellers’s awkward antics, Roberto Benigni’s endearing clumsiness, Jackie Chan’s (non-violent) facility with props, or even Mr. Bean’s ridiculous little car.
The O.G. rinky-dink ride
You can also see how Tati’s influences governed his early style. He clearly watched his Chaplin and Keaton as well, and Mr. Hulot’s Holiday often feels like several old-school comedic shorts strung together. He also shoots sound with a silent film sensibility, with little to no dialogue and sound effects either used for texture or deployed like punchlines. His off-kilter framing and meticulousness with mis en scene are also on display here, and it’s interesting seeing the seeds of his later masterpiece already sprouting.
The plot is about as aimless as it gets. Even when it seems like a small romance or rivalry with a waiter is developing, Tati quickly loses interest. Compared with Playtime, where even the aimlessness has a distinct purpose in the overarching scheme, it’s a bit frustrating.
I sense the influence of the devil’s tobaccy
The comedy leans on some slapstick bits that were already getting a bit long in the tooth even then a little heavily here and there, but more disappointing is the seeming lack of ambition both socially and comedically from Tati. He’s still finding his voice here, and has yet to figure out what to say with it.
Coming off the unabashed brilliance of Playtime, my expectations were perhaps too high, but even minor Tati is a damn enjoyable time at the movies.