Oui Monsieur!

Recently I had le plaisir of introducing my daughter to Monsieur Hulot. I knew that the film Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953) would work for her since it is essentially a silent film with sound effects – much like Chaplin’s City Lights (1931). Lily (said daughter, 6 yrs old) loved it, and I loved it again. I really should have a reoccurring feature: “Watching movies with Lily”!

I have been thinking about how this story, which is more a series of light comedy vignettes, ultimately ties together. Now, on second viewing, it seems clear to me that the key is in answering the question: who is it that bothers to say goodbye to Hulot at the end of the film? Of all the characters in the film only two say goodbye to Hulot – the Englishwoman (played by Valentine Camax)…

…and the Strolling Man (played by RenĂ© Lacourt).

Both of these characters are, in some way, outsiders, either by being culturally different (the Englishwoman) or by being a henpecked observer (the Strolling Man). And, of course, Hulot is an outsider in so many ways. I believe that Jacques Tati sees Hulot as a kind of tonic, or a moment of trueness, for those who have hearts capable of responding.

I find this scene to be one of those wonderful moments because it is so matter-of-fact on the surface, and yet a little melancholy underneath. The scene also speaks volumes in regards to Hulot’s position in society and Tati’s perspective of French (and modern) society as a whole.

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