Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

monsieur hulots holiday poster 1953 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Clever and creative

Not plot driven which could be difficult for some viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name: Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday

Studio: Discina Films

Genre(s): Comedy

Release Date(s):  February 25, 1953 (France)/February 12, 1954 (UK)/June 16, 1954 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

monsieur hulots holiday hotel de la plage

Come down to the Hotel de la Plage

The vacation time has come and everyone is headed to the seaside.  With Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) around, a peaceful and quiet time along the shore might not be possible.  The vacationers swim, picnic, and explore the countryside.  Monsieur Hulot is just trying to get away and enjoy his own time…but trouble has a way of following Hulot wherever he goes.

Written and directed by Jacques Tati (with additional writing by Henri Marquet), Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (Les Vacances de M. Hulot) is a French comedy.  Following Tati’s Jour de Fête in 1949, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing—Story and Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film as part of The Complete Jacques Tati (Criterion #110) and it is also included in the Essential Art House:  50 Years of Janus Films.

Honestly, I’m not that familiar with Tati.  The first film I saw of his (indirectly) was The Illusionist which was based on an undeveloped story.  I then saw Parade which is widely considered the weakest of his film.  Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is widely considered one of his best films, if not the best.

monsieur hulots holiday jacques tati

Hulot is a bull in a china shop

The story is rather incidental, and it plays out almost as a series of skits with common themes of Monsieur Hulot and some other guests at the hotel.  Hulot is a bumbler but he’s a likeable bumbler, and it is part of the reason that the Monsieur Hulot character became so popular.  The idea of the story is about the emerging middle class who were finally able to take vacations and enjoy life after the wars that rocked Europe.  In many ways, it reminds a lot of the Disney Goofy short films where Goofy is trying a new event or sport which were popular around the same time.

The joy of the film is Tati who has Hulot being ignorantly annoying but at the same time likable.  The physical gags aren’t as hard and dangerous as something like Three Stooges, but more along the lines of Mr. Magoo…Tati is often oblivious to the problem until he scoots away.  It also plays with expectations like in the scene where there are sculptures and breakable objects in a room…Hulot is spinning around with a riding crop under his arm that you anticipate will break one of these collectibles.  He hits pictures and even gets stuck on a fox fur…but the items all remain standing.  It is a control and it isn’t what you’re expecting in a gag type movie.

monsieur hulots holiday jacques tati sprinkler

I have to say trying to fill up the sprinkling can on the spinning garden waterer is classic

You want to go to the seaside down by the time you are finished with the film.  The film was shot in Saint-Marc-sur-Mer so it doesn’t have the beauty of the French Riviera, but it has a much more New England or Carolina feel to it.  The Hotel de la Plage is still there and the lightness of the movie now makes me want it as one of my destinations someday.

I do have to say that Jacques Tati isn’t for everyone, and having seen a few of his films now, I have to be in a special mood for a film in his style.  The films are almost skit based and you can see how influential they were on comedy from Monty Python to Mr. Bean (who borrowed heavily from the character).  As a result, I do recommend checking out Tati’s work and Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is either a great place to start or finish…and just enjoy the joy of movies.  Tati followed Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday with Mon Oncle in 1958.

Related Links:

Parade (1974)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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