Written in 2013 for a 2019 Taschen publication. — J.R.
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
1. Tati as traditionalist, Tati as experimenter
There’s a clear and consistent see-sawing pattern that can be traced over the course of Tati’s half-dozen features: a relatively conventional comedy with a relatively well-defined storyline is followed by something more radical, original, and experimental, and less bound or defined by traditional storytelling.
This isn’t only the way that PlayTime follows Mon Oncle and that Parade follows Trafic. The way that Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot follows Jour de fête is no less striking and significant. Even after we acknowledge that, as an original artist with an artisan’s sensibility, Tati invariably experimented in all his creative work — and that Jour de fête would have seemed more experimental in 1949 if he had been able to process and release it in color, as he had intended — one can still find a striking difference between his more narrative-bound and his less narrative-bound works.
At the same time, however, there’s a certain thematic continuity that’s followed from one feature to the next even when the style and form undergo important changes. On the most basic level, Tati’s first two films deal with vacation time and the second two deal with architecture. Read more