Amoeblog

Jacques Tati's "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday"

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 15, 2017 07:42pm | Post a Comment

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday

By Nazeeh Alghazawneh

Jacques Tati was quite the oddity for French cinema, especially for someone whose career began as Monsieur Hulot’s Holidayearly as the 1930s. Here comes a man standing at 6’3” who is creating absurd, French slapstick comedies in which he stars as a bumbling, gauche oaf who lumbers about society with as much subtlety as one can who is 6’3”. Yet he was an auteur, a man whose grasp of comedy functioned in this lovely space of purely good intentions despite his inherent tendencies to cause amok everywhere he set foot. One couldn’t possibly find a trace of malice anywhere in the droop of his large eyes that hang comfortably onto the prominence of his bulbous nose, which only furthers his overall demeanor through the wide-set stance of his incredibly long legs that can’t help but remind someone of those inflatable mascots outside of car dealerships.

Of course the man as a director and the man as an actor are two very different personalities, as one is who he actually is while the other is fictional; however, Tati’s decision to star in his own films as opposed to hiring someone else was a very bold artistic choice because nothing about the man’s physicality fit into the elegant sophistication that French society had based its identity on. It’s this stark juxtaposition of societal decorum subverted by benevolent incompetence in which Tati not only found and excelled at his humor, but absolutely reveled in. He constructed a world that allowed him to indulge in his many idiosyncrasies as a physical comedian and performer, while simultaneously poking fun just how seriously people at the time took themselves and their social hierarchies. It’s here that Tati’s most famous character, Monsieur Hulot, was born and forever ingrained into the bellies of anyone who laughed at the silly Frenchman.

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RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL

Posted by Charles Reece, March 1, 2009 08:31pm | Post a Comment
If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I'd be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain't bought
-- Guy Clark, "L.A. Freeway"


There are few directors I rank up there with Hitchcock, but Jacques Tati is one of them. I finally got around to watching Criterion's release of Trafic, his final installment in the Monsieur Hulot series. If Playtime is his Vertigo, then that would make Trafic his North By Northwest, only it didn't put Tati back on top of the commerical foodchain. After the box-office failure of Playtime, Tati had to take a step backwards, at least production-wise. Maybe that's why the critics never gave his followup the same attention as all the other Hulot flicks, the artistry of each increasing at exponential rate over the last. And maybe the diminished role of the Hulot character in Trafic is the reason it didn't do much better than Playtime among the masses (that's the reason Jonathan Romney gives). I suspect it was due to the same brazen social critique condemning his former film to academic circles, resulting in the charge of pretension from newspaper reviewers and the like. Most people like to keep their seriousness and humor separate.


In the opening credit sequence, Tati looks straight down the maw of an automobile assembly line, creating an effect similar to the infinite regress of two mirrors facing each other. The men are as much like replicas as the parts they're pushing through the machine. After having spent a couple years doing register duty in retail, a musician buddy of mine commented the other night that if America spent as much time habituating its citizens to the piano keys as it does to menial tasks in the service of commerce, the creative possibilites would be limitless. As it stands, those guys in that shot don't stand much of a chance of doing anything else with the procedural knowledge they've acquired. Dan Lalande expresses a similar thought in his evaluation of the film in the latest Cineaction: