Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday aka Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot is the first time we see the Jacques Tati touch in its purest form. Though Jour De Fete still counts as a Tati film, it still follows a plot and focuses on dialogue. With this film however, he does away with plot and natural dialogue in favour of observation and sound. In lesser hands, it would have turned this into boring work of pretentiousness. Fortunatly, this film is in the hands of a confident and bold filmmaker, who offers a beautiful portrait of average folks on vacation and a celebration of chaos in a world of order.
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday takes place on a cozy little beach resort on the French countryside, where tourists come to enjoy a weekend of sun and fun. We see a wide variety of tourists arrive. First, there is Martine (Nathalie Pascaud), a beautiful single woman who attracts the eye of every young man around. And then there’s the wife (Marguerite Gerald) who wanders the beach with childlike excitement while her indifferent husband (Rene Lacourt) drags along.
And then, there’s Monsieur Hulot (Tati), a mild-mannered gentleman who arrives in a jalopy he can barely fit in. Like everyone who arrived there, M. Hulot comes for some R&R. But the moment he opens the front door and lets a gust of wind blow through the building, M. Hulot accidently disrupts one routine after another. This attracts the ire of the nosy waiter (Raymond Carl), who keeps watching for him. It all ends in a barrage of fireworks.
The film opening sets up the tone of the film perfectly. It begins with a beautiful scene of a quiet, peaceful beach, accompanied by a beautiful jazz score courtesy of composer Alain Romans. The music soon dies down so we can hear the waves. And then the film pulls cinematic whiplash by cutting to a loud and hectic train station, where crowds of tourists dash from one tunnel to another trying to get to their train. There is endless noise from the incoherent announcer to the whistle of a train. And then it cuts to another peaceful environment as M. Hulot drives across the French countryside. While the others are dash to the train, Hulot takes time to enjoy the scenery.