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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The die has been cast -- our "Great Films at the Cathedral" will be announced in the bulletin/newsletter for August and our first film will be this B&W French classic:

"Mr. Hulot's Holiday" ("Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot" literally "The Vacation of M. Hulot"); Jacques Tati as M. Hulot and writer, director.

For me, one sign of a great movie is when scenes are so unforgettable that they replay again and again in my mind. By that standard, "M. Hulot's Holiday" is the funniest movie of all time.

I first saw this movie soon after it first appeared in the USA and thought at the time it would be a classic. Since then, the projector in my mind has replayed so many scenes so often that in the replaying it's grown even more hilarious. From time to time, I see it again and each time realize that -- as funny as the original is -- it has that rare quality of planting seeds which grow and blossom in my memory even more. Looking for an end on a snarled garden hose always replays Hulot and the garden sprinkler.

There is very little plot beyond 'what I did on my summer vacation' -- but there doesn't need to be. Through the movie there is an elderly couple who stroll, observing the follies, eccentricities, normalities, of the behaviors of people on a summer vacation. The film's perspective is that we are similar to them, strolling, observing -- and as if the film's opening and close coincide with the beginning and end of the traditional French August vacation.

I've also seen Jacque Tati's "Mon Oncle" several times; while it's good, to me it's several magnitudes lower than 'holiday.' I look forward to seeing "Playtime" with the sure knowledge that nothing can top "M. Hulot's Holiday." As with all humor, people like different flavors.

The flavor of this is generally slightly dry with a few wet spots. Tati observes the usual, the commonplace, the well-meaning and then tweaks it just enough to either make you smile in self-recognition or sometimes snort milk out your nose. His Monsiuer Hulot is a gentle, chivalrous soul, always trying to be helpful although he inadvertently sows occasional chaos in his wake, as if "letting no good deed go unpunished."

I found it's on Roger Ebert's list of greatest films. Please read his superb review:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19961110/REVIEWS08/401010328/1023

Some excerpts from it: "It is not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness and good cheer. There are some real laughs in it, but ``Mr. Hulot's Holiday'' gives us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature--so odd, so valuable, so particular.... The movie is constructed with the meticulous attention to detail of a Keaton or Chaplin....When has a film so subtly and yet so completely captured nostalgia for past happiness? The movie is about the simplest of human pleasures: The desire to get away for a few days, to play instead of work, to breathe in the sea air, and maybe meet someone nice. It is about the hope that underlies all vacations, and the sadness that ends them. And it is amused, too, that we go about our days so intently, while the sea and the sky go about theirs."

The "Criterion" DVD version restores many portions that had previously been edited out and is the best version to see.

 

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I watched this years ago on my parents' recommendation; they had seen it in the 1950s while dating when it became somewhat of a fad.

It is funny -- and the garden hose sequence is classic (along w/the fireworks) -- but the whole thing is so generally understated that the pace, for me at least, lags a little. Sure, fat Marxists who can't let go enough to enjoy a beach vacation may be worth a smile or two, but they're not exactly knee-slappers.

Still, Tati is brilliant. I don't think anyone quite approached the game of tennis in nearly the same manner as he did.
 
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