It's been quite a year for Jacques Tati fans. On the heels of an exhibition this summer at the Cinémathèque Française devoted to the French director, Tati's classic "M. Hulot's Holiday" is currently at both New York's Film Forum and Los Angeles' Nuart Theatre for two-week engagements; the comedian will be the subject of a retrospective at MoMA this December; and the BFI has just released a DVD collection of Tati's films.
"Simply put, Jacques Tati's 'M. Hulot's Holiday' (1953) is one of the most delightful cinematic experiences I have ever encountered," writes Cullen Gallagher in The L Magazine. "Like the film's infectious, amiable theme song—whose breezy melody fluidly passes from saxophone to guitar to vibes to piano without interrupting the phrasing—Tati, his camera and his on-screen alter-ego Hulot flit amongst the beachfront tourists like a fellow vacationer. With his perennial floppy hat and a pipe protruding from his lips, Hulot putters into town in his rustbucket and proceeds to join his compatriots in an attempt to enjoy some rest and relaxation under the sun."
Flavorpill's Jason Jude Chan on "M. Hulot's Holiday": "Like an impressionist painting of the campagne, an air of leisure and nostalgia coats the sweetly muted occurrences, with Tati shrugging off A-to-B plotting in favor of light, satiric episodes that tie in screwy boats, Chaplin, plenty of firecrackers, and a tennis serve that's simply automatic."
"This major new restoration is based on the camera negative and returns a whole range of tonal values to the film, set in a seaside resort where Tati’s reedy M. Hulot tentatively interacts with an international collection of tourists," notes Dave Kehr in the New York Times.
Over at her blog, Anne Thompson calls "M. Hulot's Holiday" a "must-see" and notes that "Tati’s a physical, largely silent gag comedian, but weirdly he’s also sexy and cool."
With his tilted, loping walk, quirky physical mannerisms and self-absorbed air, the tall, gawky M. Hulot is something of a comic Everyman," writes David Ehrenstein has an essay on the film at the Criterion Collection's website. Whether attempting to grapple with a heavy suitcase, a temperamental horse, or a faulty motor car, Hulot is plainly not the man for the job. But like all the great movie clowns, Hulot—for all the scrapes he gets into—still manages to land on his feet, unshaken by his experiences, and largely unaware of the comic havoc that he has inadvertently wreaked on those who’ve crossed his path."
The new, 35mm print of "M. Hulot's Holiday" will continue to tour the US through 2010; check Janus' website to see when it's playing near you.
Watch the trailer for "M. Hulot's Holiday" on YouTube.
Over at the Guardian, Philip French discusses the new box-set of Tati's films from the BFI, "The Jacques Tati Collection," which contains all the director's features except for "Traffic." More on the collection at the Criterion Forum.
More on MoMA's upcoming Tati retrospective.