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 René 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.