Jacques Tati’s best-known work – the first film to introduce his much-loved alter ego – is a masterpiece of gentle slapstick as the titular character, Monsieur Hulot, (Tati) takes a holiday at a seaside resort in Brittany where his presence inadvertently provokes one mishap after another.
Decked out in resort-wear and polite to a fault, Mr. Hulot’s genial presence becomes the catalyst for mayhem despite his best intentions to merely blend in – as it does when Hulot unintentionally disrupts a funeral, interrupts a game of cards and tries his hand at a spot of tennis. Sight gags are set up with meticulous care by Tati, who trained as a mime in his youth. More than dialogue, Tati’s beguiling film is carried along by a lilting jazz-inflected score and punctuated with inventive sound effects.
“A comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness and good cheer. There are real laughs in it, but Mr Hulot’s Holiday gives us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature…constructed with the meticulous attention to detail of a Keaton or Chaplin…When has a film so subtly and yet so completely captured nostalgia for past happiness? The movie is about the simplest of human pleasures: The desire to get away for a few days, to play instead of work, to breathe in the sea air, and maybe meet someone nice.” RogerEbert.com