(mx) wrote: M. Hulot at Home Perhaps I should have held off on this one until I saw the first Hulot movie, or at least the first one all the way through and more recently than 1994. (I'll tell the story of that one when I get to it.) However, I strongly suspect that the comparisons to Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp hold true at least inasmuch as it doesn't really matter where you come into his saga. I don't recall a heck of a lot of exposition when he was on vacation. There isn't even really character development, because that implies that there is more to the character than initially meets the eye. M. Hulot (Jacques Tati) is a very simple type, and the issue is that he is wandering helplessly and haplessly through a very complicated world. I would argue that in many ways, he is a more intelligent and therefore inherently more likeable French predecessor to Mr. Bean. There is nothing to be learned about Mr. Bean. You just watch him. The difference is that you are laughing at Mr. Bean and with M. Hulot. Though in this case, you are also laughing at his sister, Madame Arpel (Adrienne Servantie), and brother-in-law, Charles (Jean-Pierre Zola). They live in a ridiculous, over-designed house in what is probably a very expensive French suburb with their son, Gerard (Alain Bcourt). M. Arpel works in a factory which makes rubber hoses, and some of the factory's product has gone into the house. They have a push-button kitchen and gate and a fountain which they only turn on when someone they're trying to impress comes by. M. Arpel finds M. Hulot deeply frustrating. He wants M. Hulot to be normal, by which he means "like him." He tries to get M. Hulot work at his factory. Mme. Arpel tries to set M. Hulot up with their neighbour (Dominique Marie). And all the while, M. Hulot lives a quiet life in a more traditional neighbourhood and takes Gerard out with him. He is as unimpressed by his in-laws' life as they are with his. Personally, I'm a gadget fiend in a lot of ways, but I'm also kind of a snob about it. I think the Arpels' kitchen is ridiculous, even though there are a lot of kitchen gadgets I want and don't have. (I also want a bigger kitchen, which probably goes without saying.) I see no point, for example, in a button-operated refrigerator. I'm also curious as to how you get into the Arpels' house if no one is home, because the gate is button-operated. I want to know why there appears to be no way to open their garage from the inside--or more accurately, I want to know why that's the case in-story. The reason there is no way to open the garage from the inside is to set up the inevitable joke wherein the Arpels are trapped inside the garage by their own technology. We are not laughing at M. Hulot for being confused by the gadgets, because the gadgets are confusing. It's natural and, by extension, M. and Mme. Arpel are [i]un[/i]natural. Therefore, it is important that Gerard be influenced by his uncle. There is charm enough to the movie, even though its point is obvious and, I think, a strawman. I am enchanted by the building M. Hulot lives in, and the scene with the garden party was funny enough so that Graham, who was not paying attention, laughed with me. There is no malice to M. Hulot, who one feels is happy if his sister is happy, though he would be much happier if she'd let him be happy in his own way as well. Ridiculous accidents happen to him, and that's just life. The world is big and complicated, and M. Hulot is simple. It is this same attitude which drove quite a lot of the fiction I absorbed as a child, what with Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and Amelia Bedelia. (One of these things is not like the others!) I suspect the movie would be even more appealing to children, who in general feel the same way as M. Hulot. They'd be getting on just fine if it weren't for all those tedious adults and their ideas on how people should live their lives. This is the film the Illusionist caught a moment of in the Tati-written animated film. This, of course, led to yet another "and then I was the only person in the theatre who laughed" moments; there are an awful lot of those in my life. (I've just checked the Olympia Film Society website, and they'll be screening [i]Dial M for Murder[/i] in 3D in a couple of weeks. How excited I am about this is an indicator of [i]why[/i] my life is filled with those moments.) Tati did not make a lot of movies, but as I told Graham, if you know French movie comedy of the 1950s, you know who Jacques Tati was. Even if that's all you actually know about French movie comedy of the 1950s; it's pretty well all I know, after all. He influenced quite a lot of people--not all of them film comedians and certainly not all of them French--and I think it small wonder that two of his movies, including this one, routinely appear on lists of Movies You Should See Before You Die. We will be getting to the other one probably some time early in the new year, if not sooner. "M" is taking a long time, you see.