BFI re-release for classic 1953 French comedy

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Overall rating:

Score 4


Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday


I first saw Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday in the ’70s, when our French teacher, looking to ingratiate himself with us, took us to a screening, assuring us we’d be rolling in the aisles. We did not laugh once. A semi-visible Jacques Tati (star and director) loped around a holiday resort getting into scrapes. Hardly any dialogue. A running gag about a door that went “spoink”. We made paper aeroplanes and went back home to The Goodies.

More fool us. The secret of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, a near-silent masterpiece, is to reconfigure both your laugh muscles and your expectations. Jacques Tati is often tritely cited as a precursor to Mr Bean, but there’s way more to him than that. This is a plotless anthology of incidents, visual gags, recurring motifs and eccentric characters. It’s a sort of ‘ambient’ comedy, a strangely pleasurable mixture of the warmly familiar and the ingeniously unexpected, a wonderful piece of deliberately malfunctioning cinematic clockwork. Relax into it and you’ll love it.