Monsieur Hulot is a buffoon. He’s friendly and essentially harmless, and you might even say he’s endearing in his lanky, uncoordinated, and unsophisticated way. But he’s also a silly man.
He doesn’t have a lot to say, but that’s part of the joke. Nothing that anyone says in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is more than background sound—which lets the real background noise leap forward to tell the story and be the punchline. It’s like a silent movie that isn’t silent at all.
Monsieur Hulot arrives in a little car for a holiday by the sea. He joins a mix of French vacationers at a modest resort, including young and old, rich and working class, ordinary and beautiful people. They don’t pay much attention to him. They’re caught up in their own adventures, until he causes an unintentional commotion. Then, they notice him.
Not a lot happens—very little happens on real vacations, if we’re going to be honest about it—but the movie says almost everything there is to say about what’s funny about a week at a retreat by the sea.
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday pays great attention to details of 1950s French resort life, and its jokes and gags are carefully and patiently set up. The movie is also sentimental about a simpler kind of life.
It’s a comedy that might not make you laugh out loud, but you’ll definitely smile from beginning to end.
Watch it on Kanopy.