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Monday, May 13, 2013

Fermata by John von Daler

    Slapstick and whimsy abound in Les vacances
de Monsieur Hulot
, Jacques Tati's masterwork.

But to my eyes one scene stands out as the soul of the movie:
    From behind the counter you see the hands of a
little boy give some coins to a vendor at the beach.
He buys two huge ice-cream cones, takes them
gingerly one at a time from the man and totters away towards his hotel.
    With his arms outstretched horizontally holding the cones on either side of his body he climbs a long, steep stairway, each step of which is as high as his knee. He reaches a door with a handle like the horn of a steer and with the cone in hand delicately pulls the handle down until in defiance
of gravity the scoop also turns down -  but does not fall.
    He gets through the door and walks across an empty ballroom towards a row of chairs along the opposite wall where his friend is waiting. The seats of the chairs almost reach his breast. The boy gives his friend one cone and climbs up onto his own chair, ice-cream intact. They settle down
to eat and to watch a man decorating the room.
    Only very great love could make a comedian of Tati's stature resist the myriad possibilities for pratfalls and instead allow the boy, protected by his maker, to navigate through all those dangers to his destination undisturbed. Like a composer dictating a grand pause he allows his audience here to breath, to think, to sigh. But not to laugh. That is what I call divine comedy.
    Oh to know when, where and how to hold back!

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