Friday, January 29, 2010

Mr. Hulot's Holiday at YBCA

I'm continuing to enjoy the Jacques Tati retrospective at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Last night's program began with a 1936 short, Soigne ton gauche by René Clément. Tati plays a witless country farmhand who becomes a sparring partner for a boxer in training. It looks just like a silent movie & is a poor man's version of the boxing match from City Lights. It gives us a good sample of Tati's sports mime, though.

This was followed by the classic 1953 Mr. Hulot's Holiday. The print is billed as a restoration. Apparently Tati tinkered with the film for decades, & this version represents his last revision from the 1970s. His style still comes across as peculiar. There is no plot, only anecdotes & characters. Sometimes the jokes are just situations without punch lines. One doesn't watch the movie so much as observe what's going on it in. One headless gag consists of nothing but a very small boy opening a door handle while holding ice cream cones in each hand.

The photography is beautiful, with details that need to be sought out placed in every corner of the frame. And some of the satire is instantly recognizable, such as the business man who spends his vacation taking telephone calls from the office & reading stock quotes. For me the movie hasn't dated, & I happily laughed through it.

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