En vacances avec Monsieur Hulot

He’s one of those awkward people,  too tall and not quite coordinated.  He doesn’t so much walk as bounce along on the balls of his feet, his body held forward as if nearly falling over.  it’s like he is not of this world. He seems out of place, confused as if he can’t make out what he is meant to do.  He’s not rude.  In fact there is something endearing about him.  We want to laugh, but we would not wish to hurt his feelings.  But you get the impression he wouldn’t notice.   

He is one of those slightly odd  anti-heroes who confound and irritate the hell out of those who take themselves too seriously.   Playing tennis, he  has his own idiosyncratic method of serving, a back and forth movement of the racquet as if he was putting a pizza in the oven and then a smack, leaving his more professional opponents muttering darkly.  But don’t we love him just because he has a go?  His  car breaks down at the funeral gates but when he opens the boot to get his tools, the inner tube rolls into the wet leaves where it is mistaken by the funeral director as a wreath and hung on the tomb.  The wreath deflates but the mourners pretend not to notice and come up to shake M. Hulot’s hand for his courtesy.   And of course, it‘s Monsieur Hulot who gets to dance with the pretty girl, but there is no hint of guile or seductiveness is his behaviour.  He is just enjoying the innocent fun of being  Monsieur ‘Ulot on ‘oliday.   

If it wasn’t French, we would say that Monsieur Hulot’s holidays is a charming example of British humour,  the precursor of Mr Bean and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but it’s more subtle than either of those.  M. Hulot is not so much a belly laugh as a whimsical set of observations of people doing the sort of things that people do on holiday.  We are laughing at ourselves.  Jacques  Tati has a wonderful girt of mirror to all of us and saying with a slight smile,  ‘aren’t we all a bit absurd when we think about it?’