Humanity is sweet and clumsy in Jacques Tati's 1953 film Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot). The debut film of Tati's Chaplin-esque silent comedy protagonist, the film differs from a Chaplin or Buster Keaton film in that it's not so much about one extraordinary fool but about a population of accident prone people with one sterling example of miraculous clumsiness. There's an affectionate quality to it, though, and alongside the genius for comic situations it presents a strangely sweet experience.
Men and women, young and old, arrive at a seaside resort--some only after a lot of confusion in a large orchestrated gag at the train station.
Everyone seems to be performing in a beautiful but ridiculous ballet. There's the man who doesn't realise his seat has been turned around a moment so puts his card down on the wrong table before being turned around to his own poker game, after which confused arguments erupt. There's the man painting his boat when it starts drifting back into sea.
But the king of these fools is Monsieur Hulot, played by Tati himself.
Here he is in the most impressive gag of the film, one that must have taken incredible skill, timing, and patience to pull off as he allows the tide to pull the paint bucket away and back again, apparently unnoticed by Hulot. He never speaks, like a silent comedy star, though many of the supporting characters speak. None of the dialogue has much impact and the impression, along with the general awkwardness, is of an entire species adorable for its exaggerated belief in the control it has over its world.
There's a suggestion of a romantic plot between Hulot and a beautiful young woman (Nathalie Pascaud) but it never gets very far. She seems to observe the silliness around her with a little more detachment than everyone else and a bit of the affection I think any viewer is liable to feel. There's not quite the bittersweet quality of the more developed romance in a Chaplin film. Part of the charm of Monsieur Helot's Holiday is that nothing so meaningful seems like it could ever happen.
Twitter Sonnet #1029
A blinking light invites an echo round.
Discursive routes erupt in cords of glass.
And here the green cathedral last was found.
Beneath the gates, a thin and tangled mass.
The full completed leaves of mint emerge.
On brothy seas a soup conveyed the bowl.
A cauliflower briefly will submerge.
The heat departs though pencil punctured hole.
Through higher shoes the fibre burns for air.
In cautious steps alarming crowds arrive.
Unsorted seeds become a drunken dare.
From here a class of statue gods derive.
A jelly stakes no learning on the bench.
A washer makes the shadow of the wrench.