There is a point during the new print of Mr Hulot’s Holiday currently screening in London where there is a slight frisson of fear amongst the audience. Is this going to be subtitled? It is an interesting question – much is made of Jacque Tati as a silent comedian, and indeed most of his comedy comes from the intricate (some say too intricate) pratfalls he sets up for himself. The dialogue there is often exists merely as a counterpoint to Hulot’s own silence, or murmurings – a technique stolen wholesale by Rowan Atkinson for Mr Bean. The first, non-subtitled, exchange of dialogue makes us fear we are missing something. Later in the film when the subtitles kick in, we realise we are not. Especially when the Rutherford-lite Englishwoman turns up.

This does bring in the idea of a subtitler trying to work out what is worth translating. Because whilst it is a a film based almost wholly on physical comedy, it is anything but a silent movie. The earsplitting volume of Hulot listening to music, the bangs and crashes of the fireworks not to mention the whimsical score all use sound as an important part of the effect. Films were never silent anyway, the clack of the projector, the musical (music-hall?) backing were omnipresent in what we now refer to as silent film. The Renior was recently showing Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Posters on the way into the cinema explained that they would be playing a quiet musical score to accompany the film as “some patrons film watching a wholly silent film oppressive”. Odd choice of words, but an interesting idea. I saw The General Line by Eisenstein last year without any sound at all – and whilst the film itself is oppressive in a didactic way the lack of sound was trying.