Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
Mr Hulot, Tati’s onscreen alter ego, appeared for the first time in what is both a classic screen comedy and a classic of modernist cinema. Its skeletal narrative – Mr Hulot goes on vacation at the beach – is really just an excuse for an exquisitely staged string of mishaps involving an especially confusing train station, a stubborn horse, Hulot’s eccentric car, errant tennis balls, fireworks(!), in short, just about everything he encounters.
“People are at their most desperate when they are working at enjoying themselves: it is Jacques Tati’s peculiar comic triumph to have caught the ghastliness of a summer vacation at the beach. Fortunately his technique is light and dry slapstick: the chronicle of human foibles and frustrations never sinks to the moist or lovable. As director, co-author, and star, Tati is sparse, eccentric, quick. It is not until afterward – with the sweet, nostalgic music lingering – that these misadventures may take on a certain depth and poignancy.” — Pauline Kael