Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (French: Les Vacances de M. Hulot; released as Monsieur Hulot's Holiday in the US) is a 1953 French comedy film starring and directed by Jacques Tati. It introduced the pipe-smoking, well-meaning but clumsy character of Monsieur Hulot, who appears in Tati's subsequent films, including Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967), and Trafic (1971). The film gained an international reputation for its creator when released in 1953. The film was very successful as it had a total of 5,071,920 admissions in France.[1]

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot
Film poster
Les Vacances de M. Hulot
Directed byJacques Tati
Produced byFred Orain
Written byJacques Tati
Henri Marquet
StarringJacques Tati
Nathalie Pascaud
Micheline Rolla
Music byAlain Romans
Distributed byDiscifilm
Release date
  • 25 February 1953 (1953-02-25)
Running time
114 minutes (1953 version)
86 minutes (1978 version)


Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot follows the generally harmless misadventures of a lovable, gauche Frenchman, Monsieur Hulot (played by Tati himself), as he joins the "newly emerging holiday-taking classes" for a summer vacation at a modest seaside resort. The film affectionately lampoons several hidebound elements of French political and economic classes, from chubby capitalists and self-important Marxist intellectuals to petty proprietors and drab dilettantes, most of whom find it nearly impossible to free themselves, even temporarily, from their rigid social roles in order to relax and enjoy life.

The film also gently mocks the confidence of postwar western society in the optimistic belief in capitalist production, and the value of complex technology over simple pleasures, themes that would resurface in his later films.


  • Jacques Tati as Monsieur Hulot
  • Nathalie Pascaud as Martine
  • Micheline Rolla as The Aunt
  • Valentine Camax as Englishwoman
  • Louis Perrault as Fred
  • André Dubois as The Major
  • Lucien Frégis as Hotel Proprietor
  • Raymond Carl as Waiter
  • René Lacourt as Strolling Man
  • Marguerite Gérard as Strolling Woman


For the most part, in Les Vacances, spoken dialogue is limited to the role of background sounds. Combined with frequent long shots of scenes with multiple characters, Tati believed that the results would tightly focus audience attention on the comical nature of humanity when interacting as a group, as well as his own meticulously choreographed visual gags. However, the film is by no means a 'silent' comedy, as it uses natural and man-made sounds not only for comic effect but also for character development.

The film was made in both French and English language versions. While Tati had experimented with color film in Jour de fête, Les Vacances is black and white. The jazz score, mostly variations on the theme "Quel temps fait-il à Paris",[2] was written by Alain Romans.

Les Vacances was shot in the town of Saint-Marc-sur-Mer, which lies on the edge of the industrial port of Saint-Nazaire, in the Département of Loire-Atlantique. Tati had fallen in love with the beguiling coastline while staying in nearby Port Charlotte[3] with his friends, M. and Mme Lemoine, before the war and resolved to return one day to make a film there. Tati and his crew turned up in the summer of 1951, "took over the town and then presented it to the world as the quintessence of French middle-class life as it rediscovered its rituals in the aftermath of the Second World War." [4] "Neither too big nor too small, [St Marc fitted the bill] - a sheltered inlet, with a graceful curve of sand, it boasted a hotel on the beach on which the main action could be centred. Beach huts, windbreaks, fishing boats and outcrops of rock helped to complete a picture which was all the more idyllic for being so unspectacular." A bronze statue of Monsieur Hulot was later erected and overlooks the beach where the film was made.

Critical response

On its release in the United States, Bosley Crowther's review said that the film contained "much the same visual satire that we used to get in the 'silent' days from the pictures of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and such as those." He said the film "exploded with merriment" and that Tati "is a long-legged, slightly pop-eyed gent whose talent for caricaturing the manners of human beings is robust and intense.... There is really no story to the picture.... The dialogue... is at a minimum, and it is used just to satirize the silly and pointless things that summer people say. Sounds of all sorts become firecrackers, tossed in for comical point."[5]

Tati biographer David Bellos has described the film as "Sublime," and said that, "It was through this film that I first fell in love with France. I think that is true of a lot of people." The journalist Simon O'Hagan, writing on the occasion of the film's 50th anniversary in 2003, wrote that the film, "might contain the greatest collection of sight gags ever committed to celluloid, but it is the context in which they are placed and the atmosphere of the film that lift it into another realm. The central character is an unforgettable amalgam of bafflement at the modern world, eagerness to please and just the right amount of eccentricity - i.e. not too much - his every effort to fit in during his seaside holiday merely succeeds in creating chaos out of orderliness. Puncturing the veneer of the comfortably off at play is by no means the least of Tati's concerns. But, [there is] an elegiac quality [too], the sense that what Tati finds funny he also cherishes." [6]

The film was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.[7]



  1. "Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)- JPBox-Office". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  2. "Delyle - Quel temps fait-il à Paris?". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  3. "Département de la Loire - Le département de la Loire en France, Rhône-Alpes". Annuaire-Mairie. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  4. The Independent, 20 July 2003
  5. Crowther, Bosley (1954), "The Screen in Review: French Satirical Film Opens at Fine Arts," The New York Times, 17 June 1954, p. 36.
  6. Beauty and the Beach, Simon O'Hagan, The Independent on Sunday, Arts Section, p.6, 20 July 2003
  7. "Festival de Cannes: Monsieur Hulot's Holiday". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema – 49. Monsieur Hulot's Holiday". Empire.
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