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on 22 June 2017
We return to this film every few years and each time we find it as charming and delightful as ever. From the initial confusion at the railway station to M. Hulot's manic tennis serve, the film is full of quirky visual jokes which will remain for years in the memory. Having spent many holidays on the Normandy coast when our children were young, this film brings back memories of less frenetic summers before theme parks and water parks had been invented.
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on 9 December 2004
I fell in love with this film fifty years ago. I have seen this film over thirty times in the passing years, and can still find it the funnyist film I have ever seen. In my opinion it is the cult film for comedy. You can see it over and over again and still laugh just as much at it. Buy it and you will not be disappointed, I am so glad that it has been finally released for a new generation to sit down and enjoy. Watch and laugh, your money will not be wasted !!!!!
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Chaos follows Monsieur Hulot like tin cans tied to your ankle. He's a lanky, awkward, well-intentioned innocent to whom things just naturally happen, and to whom things happen to those around him. Hulot is the creation of Jacques Tati, a genius of film if there ever was one. Tati creates movies of endless sight gags, but that term is too coarse to describe what Tati does. With Hulot and those he encounters, things are never what they seem. The usual and the commonplace grow into sources of humor that sometimes are quick and sometimes are carefully nurtured. What makes discussing Tati difficult, at least for me, is that the more I try to describe what he does, the more mundane it seems. I'll show you. A small child gives some money to an ice cream vendor and receives two cones. The child then carefully climbs the too-steep stairs to the entrance of a small hotel, carefully, carefully checking at each step to be sure he's got the cones upright so the ice cream won't fall off. The scene is funny in a good-natured way because of the child's intensity. Or Hulot encounters a kayak on the beach, sits down in it and notices a pot of paint next to him. He picks up the brush and starts daubing. The waves come in, the pot drifts out, then drifts back in time for Hulot, without looking, to get more paint on the brush. The pot drifts out again on the next wave, but then drifts back on the other side of the kayak. Sounds dull to me, but Tati turns it into an exquisite moment of good intentions, mystifying discovery and immaculate timing.

With M. Hulot's Holiday, Monsieur Hulot arrives at the small Hotel de la Plage in a French oceanside resort town. He's taking his annual vacation and the hotel is filled with other guests. From then until Hulot and the guests check out at end of their stay, we observe one sight gag after another slowly building and popping until we know who all these people are. There's the young boy whose father is always on the phone to a stockbroker, or the waiter who is perpetually resentful, or the young woman who dances with Hulot, or the elderly couple who take strolls, where she finds beautiful discoveries in the grass and he, without her seeing, quickly discards them. There are no close-ups, just medium shots as if we were there, too, watching what's going on. Dogs, cars, tires, horses, magnifying glasses, ping pong balls all have their moments. There are probably no more than a couple dozen lines of dialogue. One thing after another happens, and especially to Hulot...Hulot on the tennis courts...Hulot going riding...Hulot in the drawing room...Hulot at the funeral...Hulot with the fireworks. It's hard not to watch this movie without a smile on your face.

We realize that for all his good intentions, Hulot doesn't really fit in with this petit bourgeois group of vacationers. Yet as many funny frustrations and misunderstandings happen to these people as happen to Hulot. By the end of the movie we know most of the guests almost as well as we know Hulot. We also find ourselves admiring Hulot's indomitable innocence and good will. I felt a little sad and poignant at the close of the film.

For those unfamiliar with Tati and his few films, this is a good one to start with; so would be My Uncle. Tati himself was not as fortunate as his creation. His meticulous approach meant years would pass between films. My Uncle didn't appear until 1958. Nine years went by before Playtime was released. Playtime was horrendously expensive and made little money. Tati was forced into bankruptcy. In order finance Traffic (1971), he put up as collateral the rights to all his previous films. Traffic failed and Tati lost control of his life's work.

If you have an all-region DVD player, you might consider tracking down the Region 1 Criterion DVD. It looks just fine and includes several extras, including an introduction by Terry Jones and a short from the Thirties which starred Tati. M. Hulot's Holiday, sometimes listed as Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot, is a wonderful, gentle, beautiful movie. I highly recommend it.
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on 29 January 2009
Jacques Tati is one of the great comedian/directors, but he was an impossible perfectionist in his movie-making, and died bankrupt as a result. He lost the rights to his movies in the wake of the ruinous folly that is "Playtime", and since his death the bones have been picked over for profit by a variety of people. As one reviewer points out, the British Film Institute misses out scenes, while I've seen the Japanese DVD which has completely irrelevant sub-titles. If you are offered something billed as the 1977 version, don't buy it, it's chopped around. And there's no cheap easy way into Tati, as all his films retail at £12-£15, even assuming they're available.

Many people don't "get" Tati, frustrated by his lack of plot, and episodes which don't seem to go anywhere. But those who complain about his lack of skill as a film-maker are probably watching a duff version.

Certainly "Les Vacances" has only the plot of a fortnight's holiday, but that's enough to give the film a rhythm, each day started with the catchy clarinet tune and the opening of the window to look at the sea. (The only day which doesn't have the tune is the last, when everyone is sad to be going home.) Like holidays, the days seem to merge into each other, punctuated only by special Treats like the picnic, the fireworks, the Costume Ball. Some events, like some gags, lead nowhere, other jokes are recurring.

What makes Tati great seems to me threefold. First, unlike so many comics, he isn't a one-trick pony. He spreads his gags around all the characters, who are fully rounded and believable people. Most of them we know little of - like we know little about the people we happen to share a hotel or a beach with. But we know enough to know who we like and don't like, who are the sticklers and who are the quiet rebels.

Second, he has a wonderful eye for composition. The tiny two-hotel village is perfect, and every shot looks good. More than this, there's always something happening in the corner of a frame, which maybe you don't spot first time round. This feeds into his sense of rhythm. He knows how to compose a joke, and it's not obvious how he does it. I know trying to describe comedy immediately kills it, so I won't say too much, but in addition to the physical comedy, a lot of the jokes work through the editing, and he comes at the laughs sideways, so they come at you slightly off-centre, when you're not expecting them. This quality is what suffers most in the bastardised versions around.

Finally, there's the quality of his sense of humour, which is in the absurdity of the everyday. One of my favourite sequences involves a small boy (Tati is always good with children) buying two ice creams and taking them back to his friend. There's nothing to it, except a camera following him as he climbs an impossibly high flight of stairs and opens a door, carefully watching the ices; but anyone who isn't mesmerised, charmed and appalled at the same time isn't quite all there as a human being. It's this quality which gives the movie its depth and flavour, coupled with a gentle but real morality which is on the side of the chaotic, and those who like the chaotic.

People go on about Tati as a slapstick, but to me that's the least of his qualities. "M Hulot's Holiday" isn't just about a holiday, it IS a holiday, and we feel the same regret at the end as we do when our holiday comes to an end.

If there was any justice in the world and any true appreciation of cinema and its history, some philanthropic soul would buy up the rights to Tati's films, restore them to the state the Director intended, and release the five key works - "Jour de Fete", "M Hulot", "Mon Oncle", "Playtime" and "Traffic" - in a £25 box set. Maybe then Tati would be appreciated for the unique talent he is. Is it too much to hope for?
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on 8 April 2015
One of the most delightful comedies ever made. Jacques Tatis bungling character takes a holiday by the seaside and we are treated to a series of gags, pratfalls and general slapstick with very little dialogue.I first saw this when i was about twelve and cried with laughter. Seeing it again recently it had the same effect on me.Alain Romans score is particularly memorable as is the movies sound effects .Favourite scene-Monsieur Hulot playing tennis.
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2010
BFI have excelled themselves with this release. The package contains a Blu-Ray of the glistening 2009 restoration of the 1978 version of Les Vacances (French and International languages, with subtities), and the original 1953 version (French with subtitles). The 1953 version has a different, more laid-back recording of the music, runs slightly longer, and does not appear to have been issued in any home format before.

The DVD contains all of the above plus the 1978 trailer and an interview with Dick Lester. This last item is strange in that is tells you as much about Dick Lester, Buster Keaton, Peter Sellers and A Show Called Fred as it does Jacques Tati. Lester seems not even to have watched the film for quite some time, and then he's only seen it 4 times. I would still recommend it for any fan of comedy.

Philip Kemp has written a revealing yet concise essay in the enclosed booklet explaining the background to the film and the origins of the different versions.

The film itself is of course 5 stars (although Playtime (Blu-ray + DVD) is my personal favourite). For those unfamiliar, it's an extremely laid-back character study of a week's vacation on the French coast, crammed with visual jokes both subtle and obvious. Tati is, however, never afraid to take his time to set the scene and develop gags. It rewards repeated viewing and deserves to be placed near the top of any list of great comedies.
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on 1 December 2002
The one drawback in this film, as currently available, is that the superb original 1953 soundtrack, with its totally appropriate background by Aimé Barelli and his orchestra, a dreamy slow-foxtrot, is replaced in the 1960s remake by a quite inappropriate, jumpety, higgledy music which is completely at odds with the 1953 original.
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on 22 August 2006
One of the great, great five-star movies, reduced to three stars in this BFI edition by the omission of the classic deckchairs sequence.

Incomprehensibly incomplete.
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on 15 January 2008
The best thing-this is the original FRENCH print. Not a bad idea, because many Gallic nuances went out the window when the background radio prigrammes were dubbed into an Ersatz Third Programme and the archetypical can't-relax-for-a-moment businessman who's ALWAYS wanted on the phone becomes Herr Schmidt and not the transatlantic Mr Smith!

The full, original soundtrack is also here-or at least a serial number of varations of Alain Roman's theme are-that WAS the original soundtrack! Who cares-it's such a lovely tune, in total keeping with the entire ambience of the movie.

M. Hulot also almost manages to charm the lovely young French lady in the movie. No mean feat, considering he's the living incarnation of how ex-President Gerald Ford was described 20+ years later-unable to chew gum & fart at the same time; using the phrase"accident-prone" about M.Hulot is the understatement of the last millenia & possibly of this one,too!

You also have the strange feeling that every one of the fellow holiday-makers, or the staff at L'Hotel Du Plage, will think back, in the coming winter, to their quinzieme en vacance avec M Hulot. And you also know, every one of them will be wishing, secretly or openly, that they'll soon both be hearing the sewing-machine-on-wheels and also seeing the hen-house-on-wheels as M. Hulot's 1924 Amilcar hoves into view next summer!

I won't bother detailing how the movie evolves. It's just unlike any other, even other Jacques Tati's. Let me just assure you it's not only the best film ever made, it's also still screamingly funny throughout & remains so after many,many viewings!
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There is no plot to this film, we just follow the adventures of Mr Hulot on a short holiday to a Breton seaside resort in the immediate post-war years. He is joined there, for what is best described as a fictional fly on the wall doucmentary, by exactly the sort of disparate crowd that you would expect to meet on such a holiday.
Almost bereft of dialogue and filmed in black and white, we see Hulot involved in a series of adventures and misadventures. In a way, the film is like an early fifties version of Mr Bean but Hulot's reaction to every mishap is a Gallic shrug and a happy disposition which always rubs off on those around him.
Thu humour is a mixture of surreal, slapstick and irony and, despite the relaxed atmosphere of the film, there is always something happenning. There is no moment without some visual or audio gag somewhere. Despite this relentless stream, there is great balance in the film. You never feel that there is too much of something or that a certain point has been pushed too far. Great comedy always needs that kind of restraint and flawless timing.
This is the first and certainly the best of the Mr Hulot films. The later ones never recaptured the same sense of innocent whimsy. This film stands out as one of the funniest movies ever made.
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