by Sam Juliano
The indefatigable “Mr. Hulot”, who appeared in four of Jacques Tati’s films is one of the cinema’s most venerable creations. First published in France under the title Hello Monsieur Hulot David Merveile’s sublime and utterly delightful picture book Hello Mr. Hulot is a labor of love by a lifelong fan of the iconic character, Jacques Tati’s tragic-comic alter ego. A pace gone awry, technological advancements and the inevitably complex transportation system make life difficult for the gauche and blundering Hulot, whose most distinctive attributes center around his dress. His short trousers and wrinkled coat, striped socks and trademark pipe, hat and umbrella have established a singular identification. While never matching the universal love and recognition afforded Chaplin’s tramp or Keaton’s stone face, he has persevered in the shadow of the cold and inhuman modern society he mocked with a unrepentant quixotic glee, as one of the greatest comic creations in the history of the cinema.
Hulot was featured successively in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953), Mon Oncle (1959), Play Time (1967) and Traffic (1971). Author Melville claims he caught Hulot fever in 2004 after hiding a drawing of the iconic character in one of his illustrations, and then getting many responses from fans. Merville adds: “Translating Tati’s films into the genre of the picture book seemed very logical to me: I could actually silhouette the behavior and gestures of Monsieur Hulot. It’s ideal for a paper copy. The great film posters from Pierre Etaix demonstrated this. Also, Tati’s access to film, his love for details, his keen powers of observation, his interest in things, his feelings about architecture, his economical use of dialogue, and his visual jokes have all encouraged me to develop Monsieur Hulot on paper.” (more…)