Monday, October 02, 2006

M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY


Comedy of the week:
M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY

There are two ways to make comedy. One way is to rapid fire one liners and sight gags for that "laugh-a-minute" effect. If done right, it can, by sheer momentum, shake your funny bone until it's hard to breathe. Unfortunately, it's not easy to do.

The other way is to plan your jokes and sight gags. Add the elements, one at a time, over time, building comedy suspense, until the big payoff. This is actually harder to do. Why? Because it requires a lot of thought and planning and work. And lots of people don't appreciate it. It's too slow. People get bored too easily if things don't happen quickly.

The comedy in M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY is of the second type. The gags are prepared, set up, then executed. I imagine that they shot many takes as the timing has to be just right. Jacques Tati plays M. Hulot with the physical presence of, say, Charlie Chaplin. He has, in fact, often been compared to Chaplin. The comedy is mostly physical, and very very funny.

There is not plot really. M. Hulot shows up at a beachside resort and havoc ensues. The movie is in French with English subtitles. However, there's an British woman who speaks English, and besides, there's so very little dialog (dialog is unimportant here) that they really aren't necessary.

Here's why I think it's worth watching.
  1. Clean and witty. A movie that the whole family can watch and enjoy.
  2. Registered a 100% on the tomatometer.
  3. Considered by most to be Jacques Tati's best film (doesn't mean much if you don't know who Jacques Tati is).
  4. Not "fall down and pee in your pants" kind of funny. More like "can't stop smiling" kind of funny. It sticks with you longer, likes doughnuts on your waist.
  5. That so many critics recall the film with such great affection, says something about the staying power of this movie. Check the RottenTomatoes site to see what I mean.
  6. Tell people that you saw M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY last weekend. See what they do. If they just stand there and stare at you, add that it got a 100% on the tomatometer. If they continue to just stare, tell them that it is perhaps Jacques Tati's best film. If the stares just keep coming, you can add that "it's a fine example of the neo-classical French cinema circa mid-century, somewhat reminiscent of the early 20th century silent classic" - then just walk away.
  7. It's good for your kids - AND, there are no action figure to buy afterwards.
  8. It's in black and white, not to be artistic - but because it's old.
  9. BTW: A lot of people think that movie critics favor old movies over new ones because they "just don't make them like they used to". Not true! We are currently in one of the most creative periods of movie-making history. The old movies that are on the critics lists represent the very best of the older movies (like this one). An awful lot of awful movies were also made back in the day (just like now), but everybody forgets about them very quickly.
  10. For more information, the link below will take you Roger Eberts review of M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY.
Go on holiday with M. Hulot
and enjoy.

Film critic Roger Ebert's review of Mr. HULOT'S HOLIDAY.

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