Thursday, January 14, 2010
|7:00 p.m.||M. Hulot’s Holiday|
Jacques Tati (France, 1953)
Newly Restored Print
(Les vacances de M. Hulot). In a cinematic postcard from a seaside summer resort, Tati observes the forced gaiety and gently absurd antics of the English and French on vacation. A stream of sight and sound gags, this is comedy as choreography, plotless and virtually without dialogue. Or, rather, with almost inaudible dialogue that lays waste the speaker’s vanity even as he speaks. As in a dance, people are recurring motifs: the English couple who stroll in slow motion, the woman with the petits chignons, and of course M. Hulot, with his pipe and hat, and his wicked tennis stroke that is outdone only by his whole-body ping-pong style. Tati’s is the art of the anticlimax; no motivations are set up, no gag is played out to its conclusion, and night always passes to morning with the sigh of a well-timed dissolve. Les vacances are a series of near misses and minor disasters, but the beauty of it is, nobody seems to notice.
• Written by Tati, Henri Marquet. Photographed by Jacques Mercanton, Jean Mousselle. With Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Michèle Rolla, Raymond Carl. (88 mins, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)
Preceded by short:
Watch Your Left (Soigne ton gauche) (René Clément, France, 1936). Tati plays a shiftless farmhand and would-be pugilist in this early short, incidentally notable as René Clément’s first film. The bumbling postman seen in the film’s opening is an apparent inspiration for Jour de fête. (20 mins, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, permission Film Distribution)
M. Hulot’s Holiday and Watch Your Left are repeated on Saturday, January 30.
• (Total running time: 108 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W)