Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Les Vacances de M. Hulot) (1953)

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Released 8-Dec-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Short Film-Soigne Ton Gauche - Rene Clement, 1936
Trailer-Original Tati Trailer Reel
Trailer-The Leopard, The Battle Of Algiers, La Strada
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 83:12 (Case: 87)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jacques Tati
Studio
Distributor
Panoramic Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Jacques Tati
Nathalie Pascaud
Michèle Rolla
Valentine Camax
Louis Perrault
André Dubois
Lucien Frégis
Raymond Carl
René Lacourt
Marguerite Gérard
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Alain Romans


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Trying to sum up the plot of this film is not as easy as it might seem, as there is very little in the way of actual plot. It's probably August in France, and everyone is off on their summer holidays. A group of tourists arrive in a small seaside village, closely followed by Monsieur Hulot, an accident-prone pipe-smoker. Hulot's antics cause no end of frustration and annoyance to the locals as well as his fellow holiday-makers, though he manages to ingratiate himself with a young woman.

    The film is on one hand just an excuse for Jacques Tati to bring a number of vaudeville routines to the screen, interspersed with visual slapstick. But it is a different kind of slapstick to that presented in American comedy. There is very little dialogue, and even fewer close-ups. Rather than being presented with obvious visual cues as to what is about to happen, many of the gags occur as a surprise (such as Hulot stepping on the towing rope). Also, a lot of what happens occurs off-screen (where Hulot ends up after he steps on the towing rope), and is often told through sound effects.

    As much of the film is shot with a stable camera at a distance, the film feels a little static, but at the same time this gives the audience the sense of being an observer, much as one would if one were actually present. The absence of any obvious narrative accentuates this feeling. The leisurely pacing also fits with the setting: it's a long, hot summer where nothing much really happens.

    This was Tati's first Hulot feature, and his second feature as director. It was also his first black and white film, Jour de Fete having been shot in colour but released in monochrome due to film processing problems. Hulot would return in Mon Oncle, Playtime and Traffic, the first two of which are also now available on DVD in Region 4. This is possibly his most enjoyable film, mildly satirical of Parisians of the era but never malicious. The gags are superbly timed and consistently funny throughout, and this is one film that can genuinely be called a classic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, close to the original 1.37:1.

    This is an excellent video transfer. The level of detail is superb, as good as any DVD of a film of this vintage that I have seen. The smallest details are visible, even in the distant background, thanks to the deep focus photography.

    Contrast levels are pretty good throughout. There are a couple of sequences where the image looks a little soft and washed out, but these are very brief. The black and white cinematography is well transferred, with some deep blacks. There are a few genuine whites, and these are quite pure. Shadow detail is not quite so good, but the only problems are with a lack of detail in dark clothing, so this is not a significant problem.

    The worst of the film to video artefacts is mild telecine wobble, which is noticeable to some extent throughout the film. There is, almost inevitably with such a sharp transfer, some aliasing (6:58) and moiré (12:20, 39:38, 61:48) effects. There is a severe example of what looks like excessive noise reduction at 59:38, where the rightmost portion of the screen moves completely independently of the rest of the frame.

    Film artefacts are limited to some scratches, the worst of which are at 17:25, and occasional flecks and dirt. Despite this I would say the source material was in excellent condition considering the age of the film. There is some flickering due to variations in brightness between frames.

    Optional English subtitles are provided in a good-sized white font. These are well timed and I noticed no errors. There were a couple of bits of dialogue that were not translated, but these seem to be mainly radio announcements, so nothing material is lost. The only issue I have with the subtitles is that they seem to be American in outlook, so a character named Jean is subtitled as John, the abbreviation of Monsieur is Mr not M. and when a woman is referred to as Madame the subtitles say Ma'am.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change placed at 54:10. I did not notice it during an initial viewing of the film, as it occurs during a fade to black between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two mono audio tracks, both Dolby Digital 2.0. The default track is the English dubbed version, with the French language version as an option. I listened to the French one and sampled the English.

    In all but one respect, this is an excellent audio transfer. Audio is clear and clean without any artefacts. There is no hiss, no obvious distortion and no crackles or pops.

    The one problem is audio sync. About halfway through I noticed that the audio was ahead of the video, and it continued like this for the rest of the film. The glitch became apparent during the tennis match, with the sound of the racket hitting the ball being ahead of the vision. While this particular sound is obviously an effect added later, the audio is consistently early. From roughly the 35 minute mark, the recorded sound is nearly one-third of a second ahead of the vision. Prior to that the audio is out of sync, but not by as much. It is not immediately obvious most of the time, given the relative lack of dialogue and sound effects reflecting the action seen on the screen. But, once noticed, it was quite annoying.

    I have verified this glitch on three players, so it does seem to be a transfer problem.

    The English dub also has audio sync issues, though of course this is to be expected and does not seem to be an introduced problem.

    Much of the film has no music, but what there is is well suited to the film. Alain Romains has contributed a nice jazzy score, of the type that we would today associate with old-style nightclubs. There are also a couple of loud big band tracks provided by M. Hulot's gramophone.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The static main menu has some of the theme music playing as background.

Short Film - Soigne Ton Gauche (11:55)

    The menu and slick both state that this is a 1963 film, but in fact it was made in 1936. It features the young Tati in an amusing dialogue-free role as a boxer. It was directed by René Clément, who would go on to direct some fine films in the 1940s and 1950s. The print material was in excellent condition despite some grain early in the proceedings.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    This trailer is in quite poor condition compared to the feature.

Trailer-Original Tati Trailer Reel (3:58)

    Trailers for Mon Oncle and Playtime.

Trailer-The Leopard, The Battle Of Algiers, La Strada (7:39)

    Some trailers under the banner Madman Propaganda.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release comes from Criterion. In comparison to the Region 1, the Region 4 misses out on:

    The Region 1 misses out on

    There is also a UK Region 2 release from the British Film Institute. This release has a video introduction by Richard Lester, but does not have the short film or the English soundtrack. I have seen no reviews of this release as yet.

    The French Region 2 release includes the short, but has only the French soundtrack and no subtitles.

    My Italian is pretty bad, but their Region 2 disc appears to include Italian and French soundtracks, a 20 minute commentary (this may be a documentary), and three of Tati's short films. Which ones, I do not know, but I suspect the same as those on the Finnish release. Only Italian subtitles are provided.

    There is a Finnish release which has three Tati shorts: Soigne Ton Gauche, L'Ecole des Facteurs and Cours du Soir, but the French soundtrack only has subtitles for the Scandinavian countries. I have seen screen caps of this release compared to screen caps of the Criterion, and to me the Region 4 looks more like the Finnish release, which appears to have greater detail and clarity, though not by much. More's the pity that the Region 4 has the audio sync glitch, otherwise I would recommend it above the rest. At this time I will have to go with the Region 1, pending a review of the BFI release.

Summary

    A very funny comedy of a style no longer made, this is probably the best introduction there is to the unique world of Jacques Tati.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good, but it is out of sync.

    There is one useful extra, being the short film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R2 BFI - garumph (read my bio)