the july installment of our starlite cinema series in austin was an impossibility, what with all the moving and traveling. we don't give up that easily, though. we just moved our shindig fifteen hundred miles or so down the road and put up our screen in mclean, virginia. last night we held a post-music screening of one of my favorites, and an essential summertime classic, jacques tati's m. hulot's holiday (1953).
one of the few physical comedies that doubles as art film, this never fails to put a smile on my face. it's the first of four films that tati made with the hulot character and it remains my favorite. tati trains his gently observant eye on france's middle class as they begin to emerge from the shadows of world war II and go in search of leisure and relaxation. he gradually, gracefully introduces us to a number of vacationers, waiters and proprietors and the cheerful hurricane that is hulot. i love this film for a number of reasons. the physical comedy in it is brilliant. hulot lurches his way through the film like a giant bungling bird, alternately wreaking havoc on the more uptight travelers and completely endearing himself to everyone else who doesn't take themselves so seriously. it is a precise and subtle pantomime that opts to invest in the small joke that establishes character, rather than an ever-growing series of gags scrambling to keep your attention by making each punch line bigger than the last. it is a patient film that is as interested in the quizzical look on someone's face as they try to tune in a radio as it is a sight gag. it lingers on people strolling as long as it does a pratfall. my favorite aspect of the film is tati's generosity with his comedy. where other silent clowns, from keaton to atkinson, make themselves the center of the action almost constantly, tati willingly and regularly relinquishes the spotlight to these other minor characters. some of his best bits occur in the background of a scene and he is often not present at all. it typifies the gentleness and compassion with which he treats the objects of this sweet satire. he never adopts a mocking tone. it is obvious from the first frame to the last that he has a deep affection for these characters and he never treats them with disrespect. it is a film that could not be made today, it seems, as the comedy of awkwardness has become so inextricably linked with the comedy of cruelty. it's a wonderful tonic for those ills and a perfect film to share on a summer night with a group of new friends.
many thanks to my bandmates for making room in our tour schedule to allow me to do this and i want to extend my deepest gratitude to my friend eric and the kind community of folks at the mutated red barn for both hosting our band and allowing me to share my love of cinema with them. i hope we get to do it again some time soon.
starlite cinema returns to austin in mid to late august to celebrate alfred hitchcock's birthday so stay tuned for that. details coming soon. until then, i hope your summer is as full of good friends, music and film as mine has been.