If I had to pick one decade as my favorite for movies, I think I would have to go with the 1960s. Picking my six favorite movies from that decade? That’s a little more difficult. (It’s hard enough to limit myself to six favorites from a single year of the decade.) After much debate, I’ve decided on the following films (listed chronologically), though there are probably about two dozen other titles that could just as easily have made the cut.
Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime was his fourth feature and the third to star his most famous comic creation, Monsieur Hulot. The character made his debut in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday in 1953 and returned five years later in Mon Oncle, at the end of which — having caused a minor disaster at his brother-in-law’s plastics factory by falling asleep on the job — he was sent to the provinces to work as a sales representative. Considering his clumsiness, his knack for getting himself into trouble and the fact that he almost never speaks, it’s no surprise that Playtime finds him seeking new employment back in Paris. He may not have changed, but the city has, and its steel high-rises and sleek modern embellishments sometimes threaten to overwhelm Hulot, its other inhabitants and its visitors — mostly with boredom.
In 1953, Jacques Tati introduced his most famous character to the world in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. Hulot — no first name given — is the sort of person who, without being the least bit malicious or even mischievous, always manages to get into trouble. “I think when you tell Hulot to turn left, without meaning to, he turns right,” Tati said in 1968. Hopelessly maladroit, he spends his seaside vacation leaving trails of footprints in the hotel lobby, crashing a funeral and even setting off an accidental firework display. To some of his fellow holidaymakers, he’s a menace; to others, he’s charming; at any rate, in spite of his unassuming nature, he constantly causes things to happen. Because he spends the entirety of the film away from home, Hulot’s day-to-day life remains a mystery, all the more so because he vacations alone and scarcely speaks. For the follow-up, 1958’s Mon Oncle, Tati decided to depict Hulot in his natural environment — and some unnatural ones.