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Must-See: M. Hulot's Holiday

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 13, 2009 at 9:20AM

The Nuart is showing (November 27 to December 3) the pristine Cinematheque Francaise/Thomson/Technicolor restored print of M. Hulot's Holiday, originally shot in black-and-white in 1953 and reedited by Jacques Tati in 1978. Seeing the French comedy classic was a high point of Cannes last May.
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Thompson on Hollywood

The Nuart is showing (November 27 to December 3) the pristine Cinematheque Francaise/Thomson/Technicolor restored print of M. Hulot's Holiday, originally shot in black-and-white in 1953 and reedited by Jacques Tati in 1978. Seeing the French comedy classic was a high point of Cannes last May.

This sojourn on the Atlantic coast of France stars the director for the first time as the pipe-smoking, awkward, impish Hulot, who pulls up in a rickety jalopy to join a group of vacationers, some likable, some not. One shot of a little boy carefully, slowly walking up steps with a fresh ice cream cone in each hand is indelible. Tati's a physical, largely silent gag comedian, but weirdly he's also sexy and cool.

“Tati's masterpiece features some of the funniest and loveliest slapstick imaginable," writes critic Dave Kehr, "yet it is also a work of impressive formal innovation, casting off the tyranny of a plotline in favor of loosely associated tones, episodes, and images. The soundtrack, in which dialogue is subsumed by sound effects, is a masterful piece of musique concrète.”

This article is related to: Genres, comedy


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.