A certain amount of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday is pure slapstick. Except it’s slapstick through director Tati’s decidedly careful lensing. Tati holds the shot on the slapstick punchline a beat too long, giving the viewer time to consider the joke, the punchline, and his or her amusement. Far from condemning slapstick, Tati shows how it would function in “real life.”
Without Tati’s Hulot moving through the film, set in a small beachfront vacation town (principally the adventures of one hotel’s tourists, along with some renting a house nearby), the world would lack anything fantastical. But with Tati bumbling about? Regardless of whether the guests appreciate it, he makes their visit far more memorable.
From the guest perspective–Tati, as director, mostly follows Nathalie Pascaud’s attractive young woman who gets attention from all the fellows but finds Tati a calmer companion–Holiday is about social mores laid atop this beautiful getaway location. The cost of modern tranquility. The guests aware of these constraints–Pascaud, Valentine Camax’s Englishwoman (who thinks Tati’s a hoot), René Lacourt’s patient husband character–slowly become the core supporting cast. There are a lot of memorable characters, but Tati concentrates on the ones who can see the seams on their social agreements.
Besides some bigger set pieces, Tati also has some great small ones. Almost everything at the hotel is standout, with Tati gleefully introducing chaos into an otherwise controlled setting. His success juxtaposing Pascaud with his own character is breathtaking.
Gorgeous score from Alain Romans.
Holiday is divine.