Sunday, May 15, 2011

Trafic Jam

If you love Jacques Tati's character, M. Hulot, and you haven't seen Trafic, well, you should. If you have not seen M. Hulot, I would recommend starting with one of the other 3 films:

  • M. Hulot's Holiday
  • Mon Oncle
  • Playtime
They are all available on streaming, although Playtime seems to be missing the soundtrack. Each one is better than the last. But sadly, Playtime was so expensive that Tati was pushed out of the movie business, and Trafic, his comeback film, is not his best - but still pretty great!

M. Hulot is Tati's alter ego, a tall awkward Frenchman with a pipe and a short raincoat. He is nearly always silent, but Tati's films aren't silent movies - they are filled with polyglot dialog, sound effects and music. In Trafic, Hulot is an automobile designer, whose futuristic camping car must be delivered from Paris to the Amsterdam Car Show. With him are the driver for the car's truck and the PR woman for the firm, Maria Kimberly (played by Maria Kimberly).

Maria is a wonder - a chic American with a tiny sportscar, a huge wardrobe, a gigantic ego and very poor grasp of European languages. She creates chaos where ever she goes, followed by a tiny ragmop of a dog. Maria, the actress, was a fashion model and girlfriend to a billionaire art dealer. She must have been acting, but it seems so natural that one wonders how much of a bimbo she really is. As the film progresses, she begins to dress down a little, and we start to accept her incompetence as just another part of the nature of things. And possibly, M. Hulot gets the girl.

The jokes are small, and sometimes take a while to sink in. Sometimes, they are just visual rhymes, like when the ragmop dog passes a man dusting his car with an identical looking ragmop. There is no gag here, no comic confusion of the dog and the mop, no double take from the man. Just - look at that, dog, mop, huh.

Of course, some of the jokes are less subtle, like when the hippies steal the dog and replace him with a look-alike shaggy vest. Or the setpiece traffic accident at the climax of Act 3. But much of the movie is just a reflection on the nature of traffic, a road trip, and people in cars.

In conclusion, very very good, but watch the other ones first.

No comments: