Pierre Aubert

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Mr. Hulot's Holiday Review


Extraordinary
Director Richard Lester once famously described the 1953 Jacques Tati comedy Mr. Hulot's Holiday as the best movie ever made. Looking at Lester's work -- especially his classic A Hard Day's Night -- you can read Tati's influence all over it: it's there in the film's loose structure, casual running jokes, and rich supporting roles. But the closest homage Lester pays to Tati is in A Hard Day's Night tone: its gentle, humanist slapstick is very directly derived from that of Tati. Even in Chaplin, that quiet, radiant quality of Tati's finds no close screen equivalent. It set his films apart, and it's that quality -- together with Tati's oddball timing -- that renders his work unique.

Tati was France's most treasured screen comedian, and Mr. Hulot's Holiday is widely considered his masterpiece. His major films centered on his screen alter-ego, the goofy, accident-prone M. Hulot, who smoked a pipe, walked with a Groucho-like gait, and wore a signature trenchcoat long before that garment bore any relation to flashers or, later, gun-wielding teens. As a plot, Mr. Hulot's Holiday recounts this character's summer vacation at a seaside resort. But the plot, in Tati, is just a skeleton upon which the gags are hung, and in Holiday these gags occur with Naked Gun-like frequency.

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