Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953, Fr.)
(aka Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953, Fr.) (aka Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot)

In writer/director Jacques Tati's satirical, episodic French comedy with many visual gags and slapstick and a minimalist plot - the first of a number of original films that introduced and portrayed the bumbling, tall character of Monsieur Hulot (Tati himself as his alter ego); it was followed by Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967), and Trafic (1971); the nostalgic, observational film composed of short vignettes (or set pieces) was always shot from mid-distance and devoid of close-ups; although mostly silent in terms of dialogue, the film (with a jazzy score) was full of background sounds (both natural and created sound effects):

  • in 1950s France, hustle-and-bustle, stressful situations, hassles and disorder were all that leisure-seeking vacationers found; on a train station's platform, middle-class vacationers from the city were traveling for their one-week summer vacation holiday by the sea; after an unintelligible, nasally PA system announcement, the touristy crowd en masse moved from one train platform (in the background) to the opposite platform (in the foreground) through an underground passageway with herd mentality, but then they madly rushed back to their original platform when a train appeared (but the train didn't stop); they realized they had to again switch tracks a third time to the previously-abandoned platform when the overcrowded train actually pulled in to board passengers
  • meanwhile, the main character: self-absorbed, likable, courteous, accident-prone, pipe-smoking, gawky and long-legged Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) was driving to the same destination as the other bourgeois travelers - for a vacation-holiday by the sea in the coastal village of Brittany at a small, sleepy seaside hotel (Hotel de la Plage); he was driving in his battered, small, jerky, backfiring 1924 Salmson AL-3 jalopy (with a horn that sounded like a duck); he patiently waited in his antique car until a sleeping stray dog that was blocking the road moved
  • the well-meaning Monsieur Hulot parked his car outside the hotel next to the beach dotted with umbrellas and striped tents - and accidentally left the entrance door open; a strong wind blew through and caused chaos and disruption in the lobby amongst the guests, seated at poker tables and other adjoining sitting areas
  • throughout the entire film, Hulot was inadvertently the cause of many disruptions occurring around him as a result of his awkwardness, clumsiness, absent-mindedness and accident-prone nature
  • the angular-shaped, long-legged Hulot was wearing a tweed-coat, rumpled hat, and high-waisted trousers (with striped socks showing); he walked into the hotel's lobby leaning forward, and met the overwhelmed and irritated Waiter (Raymond Carl); he then proceeded to the front desk (and later to the upstairs) with long strides (and lots of nodding, bowing and hat tipping) to register with the surly Hotel Proprietor (Lucien Frégis)

(l to r): The Irritated Waiter and Monsieur Hulot in the Hotel Lobby

Monsieur Hulot Checking in with the Hotel Proprietor
  • Hulot's hotel room was located at the top of the building, with a roof trap door
  • the noisy, swinging restaurant door constantly made a "twang" or wooden thunk sound
  • one of the children at the beach was experimenting with a magnifying glass, burning holes in the side of a tent and on a sunbather's chest
  • Hulot was discovered to be the cause of a minor disaster - he had inadvertently unlocked a winch crank that released a small boat back into the ocean, as the owner was painting the boat's name on its hull - the painter's brush remained stationary as the boat went into reverse, causing a long brushstroke along the length of the vessel; the guilt-ridden Hulot non-chalantly left the scene by following a jogger to disappear from sight
  • Hulot - in a near-hypnotic trance - observed a large gob of taffy hanging on a hook as it drooped and nearly hit the table's surface, but was saved each time at the last second by the cart vendor

Pretty Blonde Martine (Nathalie Pascaud)

Hulot Precariously Carrying a Heavy Suitcase into Apartment
  • one of the beach vacationers, who had rented a separate beachside upstairs apartment for herself across from the hotel, was pretty and young solitary blonde Martine (Nathalie Pascaud); the recurring gag was that she often caused various men to be distracted by her beauty; once the bashful Hulot met her, he helpfully volunteered to help carry a heavy suitcase into her apartment, but lost his balance and went sailing through the house and out the front door; later, a heavy backpack caused Hulot to be propelled backwards
Perfectly-Timed Paint Can Sight Gag
  • while Hulot was seated inside his tiny kayak by the shore and painting it, in a perfectly-timed sight gag, every time he dipped his brush, his paint can floating on the water (and carried back and forth by the tide) was in just the perfect position next to him; when Hulot stepped on his kayak, it split in two and then folded up or collapsed upon itself, looking like the two jaws of a shark; the panicky beachgoers who saw the monster-shaped creature fled from the shore
  • afterwards, the waiter caught Hulot leaving a trail of muddy footprints into the hotel lobby and up the stairs
  • Hulot drove into a country area where a funeral was being conducted by a group of black-garbed mourners in a cemetery; he was mistaken for one of the attendees when he picked up his spare tire (covered with wet and muddy leaves) that resembled a memorial wreath for the deceased's tombstone; it deflated when it was secured with a nail
  • while others were reading a newspaper, Hulot created a triangular-shaped hat from the lastest news
  • Hulot decided to take a tennis lesson; he purchased a racket and drove over to a tennis court where an Englishwoman (Valentine Camax) was supervising the instruction from a tall referee's tower; blonde Martine watched and was amused; during a vigorous game, Hulot's opponents were two females who couldn't hit his unusual, bizarre power serves; his next opponent was a male who was quickly defeated and out of breath
  • in the hotel lobby, Hulot was involved in a very active ping-pong game, and often disturbed and interrupted other guests playing a game of cards while looking for his lost ping-pong ball; his actions later caused havoc and instigated a fight amongst the players
  • while trying to straighten two pictures on the wall (and knocking them askew), Hulot caught the mouth of a stuffed fox on the floor in his boots' spurs and dragged it behind him as he walked forward
  • while trying to mount an uncooperative horse, it broke free, backed up and almost destroyed a parked car - Hulot mistakenly thought he had decapitated the car's rear-seat passenger
  • a young boy precariously carried an ice cream in each hand as he ascended a flight of steps - but miraculously never dumped either of them

Attempting to Mount an Uncooperative Horse

Young Child With Two Ice Cream Cones

At the Resort's Masque Ball
  • at the hotel's Masque Ball costume party, the only ones to really dress up (other than wearing party hats) and participate were Hulot (as a one-eyed pirate), Martine (as a harlequin with a bare back), and some children; while in disguise and dancing with Martine, he timidly made romantic advances toward her
  • a planned outdoor picnic by the resort was organized as a caravan of four cars to their destination; meanwhile, Hulot was having his disabled car towed by a taut rope, when he was accidentally propelled into the water; after the car was fixed, Hulot was driving to the picnic when he had to stop by the side of the road to repair a flat tire; Hulot's cranking only raised the car's back rumble seat, not the car itself, and then after the jack released, Hulot found himself chasing after his own runaway car
  • later, Hulot was chased by dogs and hid in a shed, where he accidentally set off fireworks, creating an impromptu fireworks show on the beach at night

Impromptu Fireworks Display

Hulot Driving Away at End of Vacation

Postcard Memory of the Vacation
  • in the film's nostalgic conclusion, the guests were packing up and preparing to return home at the end of their vacations; Hulot joined the retreat by driving off from the beach in his sputtering old car; the image was freeze-framed
  • the entire B/W film was then envisioned as a series of black and white images - actually film postcards (with a stamp affixed in the last frame). [Note: in some versions, the stamp was red and the only colorful element in the entire film.]

Confusion on Two Platforms of the Train Station by Vacationers

Monsieur Hulot's Jalopy on the Way to Brittany

Beach in Coastal, Seaside Village of Brittany

Winch Crank Released by Hulot, as a Boat's Name Was Being Painted on the Side

Hulot Observing a Large Glob of Taffy

Hulot's Collapsed Kayak in the Shape of a Shark with Large Jaws

Hulot's Trail of Muddy Footprints into Hotel

Hulot's Spare Tire Mistaken for a Memorial Wreath at a Funeral

At the Tennis Court After Vanquishing Severaal Players With a Unique Serve

Hulot Disturbing Card Players in Hotel Lobby While Looking for Lost Ping-Pong Ball

Dragging A Stuffed Fox With His Boot's Spurs

Hulot Propelled Into the Water While His Car Was Being Towed

Hulot Fixing His Car's Flat Tire

Hulot Chasing After His Runaway Car


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