Sunday, August 23, 2020

Silly Man Movies

Early in quarantine we rolled the dice and showed Lola the 1953 French film, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. Within two months she’d watched all six of Jacques Tati’s features as well as the animated film The Illusionist. I had a feeling she would respond well to all the silliness, but I had no clue how overwhelming that response would be.

At first she would call him “silly man” and request to watch “more silly man movies.” Last week Lola and I were driving and she asked me to play “Hulot music” on the radio. ‘Becca’lise plays lots of film scores for her during car rides and free play but this was new. It’d been at least three months since we finished his filmography. I guess she just needed to hear some Hulot music.

For parents looking to expand their child’s visual diet beyond Frozen and Baby Shark, Tati is a pretty ideal option. There’s minimal dialogue, lots of silly sounds, little to no violence, and the overall vibe is good-natured and accepting. The pacing is also gradual which helps develop attention span and observation skills.

There are also some excellent Mr. Hulot children’s books by illustrator David Merveille that are entirely wordless and make for a great way to encourage your little ones to “read pictures” and pick up visual nuance.

If you or your kids aren’t quite feeling Tati, there’s always the holy trinity of Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. For older kids there’s Pierre Etaix, Jerry Lewis, and the Inspector Clouseau films. I’ve sadly yet to see a Cantinflas film but people I respect indicate his movies would also fit the bill nicely.

What better way to expand your child’s cinematic world than through laughter? I think we could all use a good laugh right about now.

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