Sunday, August 16, 2015
Directed, co-edited, and starring Jacques Tati and written by Tati, Jacques Lagrange, and Bert Haanstra, Trafic is the story of Monsieur Hulot working as a car designer as he takes his designs to a show in Amsterdam where the trip goes horribly wrong. The film stars Tati as Hulot for the final time in an informal trilogy of Hulot dealing with modern society as the focus is on the world of cars. Also starring Tony Knepper, Franco Russel, Mario Zanuelli, and Maria Kimberly. Trafic is a whimsical and charming film from Jacques Tati.
The film revolves around a car expo in Amsterdam as Monsieur Hulot’s design for a camper is to be the centerpiece of the expo as he and employees of the company drive from France to Amsterdam for the show where the trip becomes a disaster. It all plays into Hulot’s attempt to get his design on the day of the expo where it starts off with a series of little incidents revolving around a very old truck that is carrying the camper. Things would get worse as Hulot, the driver Marcel (Marcel Fraval) and a publicist named Maria (Maria Kimberly) would deal with traffic and other crazy things. The film’s screenplay is very simple as it relies more on situations rather than plot and dialogue as the latter is used sparingly at times. Instead, the script comments on not just the craziness of these car expos but also cities that is dominated by cars where no one could really go anywhere or get out as traffic becomes overwhelming as Hulot would find himself stuck in these situations.
Jacques Tati’s direction is simple in terms of its compositions but he manages to create images that are quite exhilarating in terms of the set pieces and how he presents the car expos and the world of traffic in the city. Tati would create elaborate gags that would often involve Maria’s dog leaving the car to wander around or people watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV as it plays into a world where humanity’s emphasis on cars and new things start to become overwhelming. Especially as the Hulot character is the man who design a car yet is revealed to be someone that is more about the simpler things in life. The camper itself is a unique character in the film as the gadgets it has are quite appealing but also has this air of absurdity to it. Part of Tati’s own approach to comedy would also include intricately-choreographed sequences that involve accidents and the traffic jams to play into not just the craziness of the world of cars.
It is also a commentary of sorts on modern society and its reliance on cars which only makes things very uneasy when it’s surrounded by traffic. Notably the elaborate accident sequence where it is quite comical but would be followed by something that is quite endearing into how humanity would react to something like this. Even the expo would have something that is off-the-wall in Tati’s direction where his usage of wide and medium shots come into play where it is very chaotic as opposed to scenes outside of the city where it’s more quaint. Overall, Tati creates a very witty and mesmerizing film about a man’s disastrous trip to a car expo in a world surrounded by cars and consumerism.
Cinematographers Eduard van der Enden and Marcel Weiss do amazing work with the film‘s very colorful and vibrant photography from the usage of the locations near Amsterdam as well as the interior lights for the scenes inside the expo and scenes set at night including one memorable gag involving Hulot. Editors Jacques Tati, Sophie Tatischeff, and Maurice Laumain do brilliant work with the editing to create unique rhythms for its sense of comedic timing as well as straight cuts to play into the non-comedic moments. Set designer Adrien De Rooy does fantastic work with the look of the expo as well as the camper that Hulot designed.
The sound work of Ed Pelster and Alain Curvelier, with sound mixer Jean Neny, is excellent as it is among one of the film‘s highlights from the way gags are created through sound as well as elements that play into some of the chaotic events including scenes set at the expo. The film’s music by Charles Dumont is wonderful as it is a jazz-based score that plays into the whimsical tone of the film as well as some of the funnier moments and themes for some of its characters.
The film’s phenomenal cast includes some notable small roles from Honore Bostel as Hulot’s boss, Francois Maisongrosse as the boss’ assistant Francois, Franco Ressel and Mario Zanuelli as a couple of drivers Hulot would encounter, Tony Knepper as an eccentric mechanic who helps Hulot and Maria late in the film, and Marcel Fraval as the truck driver who would drive the truck carrying the camper. Maria Kimberly is fantastic as the company’s publicist Maria who deals with the chaos of being late and having to bring her dog to the event as things go wrong. Finally, there’s Jacques Tati in a marvelous performance as Monsieur Hulot where Tati would maintain that sense of pantomime physical comedy as it done in a restrained manner as it is a very fun performance from Tati.
Trafic is a remarkable film from Jacques Tati. While it doesn’t really say anything new about modern society’s fascination with cars and the world of consumerism. It is still a film that manages to have something say that remains very relevant in the modern world while also being very entertaining. In the end, Trafic is a sensational film from Jacques Tati.
Jacques Tati Films: Jour de Fete - Monsieur Hulot's Holiday - Mon Oncle - Playtime - Parade - The Short Films of Jacques Tati - The Auteurs #49: Jacques Tati
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