Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Loudness of Hulot

Long-time readers of the blog will already know that I am a big fan of Jacques Tati, and in particular the 1953 classic Mr Hulot's Holiday.  The topic has come up before, in particular in this 2004 post.

I submitted this post to Niklaus and Lucy for inclusion on the Be Loud! Sophie blog.  It is written in a somewhat pretentious way, but WTF ever.  There's a little bit a of a backstory. Early in Sophie's illness, I gave Niklaus my copies of Mr. Hulot's Holiday and Auntie Mame, both of them VHS tapes since I had had them for so long, thinking that Sophie would be in the hospital bored and would be in a position to appreciate classics.  Also because I knew she was a special girl. But what happens?  She is obsessed with binge-watching How I Met Your Mother and never watches them. Which is fine, I miscalculated.  But then Niklaus has the nerve to mock me (albeit gently) for my wacky idea that a teenager could have an interest in old movies. 

So I admit that I am a little eccentric. But still, Hulot is great, and plenty Loud. 

A dog lays in the middle of the main street of a provincial French town.  When a bus rumbles through, the dog moves, and then resumes its former place.  Soon thereafter, a small car appears, an ancient, claptrap, backfiring convertible, top up, beladen with all manner of fishing poles, nets, tennis rackets, and other vacation props.  The dog does not move. A hand reaches out of the car and squeezes the old fashioned bulb horn on the car's side. The dog languidly raises itself from its position of leisure and ambles round the side of the car to see who it is.  The hand pets the dog, before the car moves on.

And so the world is introduced to Mr. Hulot, the main character of Jacques Tati's 1953 classic Mr. Hulot's Holiday and several sequels. Perhaps never before, and never again, has so thoroughgoing a meditation on the nature of Being Loud graced the silver screen. Hulot is a bumbler with a heart of gold, Tati the king of slapstick. Everywhere he goes he wreaks quiet havoc, whether playing ping pong while bouncing from room to room, accidentally rearranging card game players and creating fights, listening to jazz cranked up to 11 in the dead of night while sitting stock still, smoking his pipe, or opening just doors that let in the powerful breeze off the sea, deranging everything from hairpieces to tea being poured.  Whenever possible, having accidentally created chaos, Hulot scampers unseen up to his garret room in the inn by the sea that is the film's central setting, often leaving telltale footprints.

Hulot, in short, is the great disrupter, the puncturer of balloons, the man of the hour.  If you haven't seen this movie, run out and do so.  It is the quintessence of summer.

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