Monday, December 15, 2008

Bonjour M. Hulot

I read last week that Wes Anderson had directed a commercial starring Brad Pitt inspired by Jacques Tati's Les Vacances de M. Hulot. (Looks like they've already dug up the ad on Novel Designs) Here are some thoughts on M. Hulot, and some clips of him in action...Pretty striking how elements of Anderson's aesthetic can be so plainly observed in his influences.

Jacques Tati’s M. Hulot is irretrievably clumsy. Often an unknowing precipitator of disaster, M. Hulot is as lighthearted and carefree as a child. He exudes contentment. Although rarely conscious of the problems he causes, he does not hesitate to address those of which he is made aware. Despite his good intentions, however, his clumsiness always prevails; rarely does he address a problem without further exacerbating it.

Even before we observe M. Hulot interact with his surroundings, we are able to draw conclusions from the costume in which Tati chooses to portray him. Defined most notably by his short trousers, long overcoat, and striped socks, Hulot’s appearance is ungainly, yet endearing—almost as if he is a child who does not yet know how to properly dress himself. His awkwardly sized costume also highlights his distinct walking style, one that is characterized by decisive strides that ultimately lack purpose, as evident in his constant changing of direction. Further contributing to his image are a hat and pipe (two props that serve as minor fixations of his) and Tati’s choice of whimsical, whistle-inducing background music.

With all this in place, it is simply up to Tati to shoot him in a way that appropriately conveys his character. He does so through portraying him in a series of long shots—shots that not only display Hulot’s entire body, but those of everyone around him as well. We rarely get close-up shots of Hulot’s facial expressions. This depiction of Hulot allows viewers to soak up his eccentricities, while also presenting the carnage he liberally (yet unknowingly) unleashes upon his surroundings.

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