Books and Movies Reviews

M. Hulot’s Vacation

Mr. Hulot=s Vacation (Tati, 1953) is a French comedy with a light touch.
The film seems to exist in a time-warp of sorts, depicting a period when
French and British tourists mingled on the beach at small resorts with
little pretension to be big resorts.The technique of the film is
observational fromfirst to last, as if someone had left a camera out on
the beach and waited for the roaming M. Hulot to come among and behave
oddly in the face of all the different problems associated with a short
From the opening frames of the waves quietly coming into shore, the
film has an easy-going attitude which suggests a vacation, and while much
goes wrong in the course of the film, it is generally of a much quieter
sort of chaos than would be seen in the average American film about a
vacation going wrong.The film is essentially a silent film, with much
owed to the works of Chaplin in America and Max Linder in France, but it is
not really a silent film and makes clever use of sound to convey meaning,
create and sustain a mood, and point out contrasting attitudes from moment
to moment.For instance, the quiet opening marked only by the soothing
music and the even more soothing sound of the waves washing ashore is held
for a moment as a boat on the beach just sits and waits.There is then a
quick cut to the train station where the noisy vacationers are arriving,
carrying suitcases, yelling to one another, seeming like children herded
from place to place with no clear sense of where they are going.The
soothing sounds of the beach shift to the jarring and ongoing din of the
train station, two aspects of a vacation, the getting there and the
enjoying being there.Tati=s inventive use of sound is apparent in this
opening as well, for the calls of the train conductor are mere electronic
grunts, too difficult to hear to be called a language.Tati is showing
here that there is no need for l…

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