In Jacques Tati's Trafic, the bumbling Monsieur Hulot, outfitted as always with tan raincoat, beaten brown hat, and umbrella, takes to Paris's highways and byways. For this, his final outing, Hulot is employed as an auto c... more »ompany's director of design, and accompanies his new vehicle (a camper tricked out in all sorts of absurd gadgetry) to an auto show in Amsterdam. Naturally, the road is paved with modern-age mishaps. This late-career delight is a masterful demonstration of the comic genius's expert timing and sidesplitting visual gags, and a bemused last look at technology run amok.« less
"For Jacques Tati, the car is the perfect emblem of the dehumanising effects of modern industrial life. Supposedly a symbol of freedom - of movement, of consumer choice - it actually signifies confinement and uniformity. Our dependence on it dehumanises us; therefore, its capacity for unreliability, for breakdown, seems catastrophic, life-threatening. The proliferaton of cars in our society simply leads to a perpetual traffic jam, an inability to move - a terrifying, apocalyptic early shot reveals an endless parking lot, a virtual city of immobile machines; it also cuts us off from other people.The problem with attempts to regiment life, to make it uniform and efficient, is that the raw material is intractable human nature, liable to put a spanner in the works through ineptitude, vanity, laziness, incomprehension, desire, officiousness, accident. Tati's simple story follows the Altra car company's attempt to transport a showpiece camping van (full of hilarious parody-Bond gadgetry, including built-in shower and barbecue) to an International Exhibition in Amsterdam. Prodded by an exasperated American public relations officer, M. Hulot and indolent driver Marcel are confounded all the way, by flat tyres, lack of gas, problems with customs, car crashes. As in Tati's very first feature, 'Jour de Fete', a progress leaving humanity behind is signalled by American aerodynamics, in this case the Apollo 11 moon-landings glimpsed on TV.Tati conveys the industrial homogeneity that scares and angers him in many ways: by emphasising vast, cavernous industrial buildings, numbing in their inhumanity, dwarfing the people occupying them, especially in Tati's rigorous, no close-up shooting; by an austere, monotonous grey colour scheme (buildings, cars, roads, clothes etc.) - even the odd splashes of colour, red, yellow or navy, belong to organisations' uniforms and logos; by the choreography of human activity, whether it is the montage of basic instincts, such as nose-picking or yawning, or ballets of mindless movement, such as the shapes thrown by survivors of an auto-accident; or more didactic montages emphasising the sameness of machines, their reflections multiplying other machines, obliterating the humans operating them. Tati posits against this uniformity: comedy, failure, dream-like sequences - a recurringly eerie effect is the proximity to noisy, country-destroying motorways of quiet rural lanes and towns, where the industrial exists in a more delapidated and decaying, but more eccentric and human form.'Trafic' won't go down in history as the funniest film Tati made, especially compared with its predecessor, 'Playtime', one of cinema's true masterpieces, whose comic crescendo of collapse it seeks but never attains. The more obvious gags often fall flat or resort to coarseness; the satire is frequently heavy-handed. Even the music, so integral to Tati's art, sometimes sounds like it escaped from a Robin Askwith sex comedy.Nevertheless, 'Trafic' is pure delight from start to finish, largely because of Tati's long-shot, set-piece style, which allows for an unhurried accumulation of comic detail, a revelation of character through action rather than psychology, and some of the most extraordinary visual visual designs in film - in other words, it offers the viewer a freedom to breathe not vouchsafed the characters. There is a particularly, nastily funny sequence involving a hippy practical joke and Hulot being cruel to a fur jacket."
wenofwei | 12/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Traffic was the movie which first got me into Tati's work. The story centres around getting a prototype car from France to a motor show in Rotterdam and as you may imagine things do not go smoothly. While Traffic lacks the endearment of Mon Oncle or M Hulot's Holiday it retains Tati's eye for understated visual humour. One of the great things about these works is that you can have seen them 20 or 30 times and still pick up on jokes that you missed before. The humour is not overt and can at times be subtle almost to the point of obscurity, however it repays repeated viewing with a some beautifully wry observations on the absurdities of everyday existence. Not a movie for belly laughs but real feel good humour."
Monsieur Hulot at odds with The Gimmick-Crazed Car Culture.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 05/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Best known for Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967), and Trafic (1971), French comic genius Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot comedies depict a socially-inept, Quixotic character always in his rumpled raincoat and tattered brown hat, at odds with the mechanistic and materialistic modern world. In fact, Hulot's life is one big misadventure in the modern world. Trafic (Traffic) was Tati's last Hulot film, and followed themes established in his earlier films. In Trafic, Monsieur Hulot (Tati) invents a Rube-Goldberg camper van fully loaded with modern features (equipped, for instance, with a shaver in the steering wheel), and then travels to an auto show in Amsterdam with a tres-trendy marketing exec named Maria (Maria Kimberly), to introduce the car for their Parisian employer, Altra Motors. Along the way, they encounter many of the everyday frustrations that seem to plague modern existence: a flat tire, an accident, an encounter with the police, car repairs, and several traffic jams. There is something hilarious just in the notion of a Luddite like Hulot working as an auto designer. Tati's Trafic is a true comic masterpiece, and the perfect antidote for these harried times.
Special features included in the double-disc edition of Trafic include a newly restored high-definition transfer; "In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot" (1989), a two-hour documentary tracing the evolution of Jacques Tati's beloved alter ego; an interview from 1971 with the cast of Trafic, from the French television program Le journal de cinéma; "The Comedy of Jacques Tati," a 1973 episode from the French television program Morceaux de bravoure; the theatrical trailer; and a new essay by film critic Jonathan Romney.
Can be enjoyed over and over again -the mark of a classic
wenofwei | 12/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw "Traffic" years ago in a theater and enjoyed it greatly. Then, it vanished and was unavailable for a long time. When it emerged on VHS I bought it eagerly. My first viewing of the tape was something of a let-down. However, the second time I looked at it I began to understand it again and subsequently have continued to find it a delight -just as I did originally. His gentle observations of the Dutch are quite perceptive. This is not "Mon Oncle," of course, but to one who was around when the movie was made (about 1970) it does remind me of an atmosphere of openness and tolerance which lamentably is now gone."
They're all great!
Wayne A. | Belfast, Northern Ireland | 03/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just hope this'll be out on DVD sometime soon. Some think this film is a bit too slow, or not as wonderful and inspired as the earlier films. That's kind of like saying Beethoven's 7th is not quite as good as his 5th or the Mona Lisa just doesn't have the same visual punch as the Last Supper. Jeepers, this is Tati we're talking about--a comedic genius who made uncompromising and meticulously crafted films, a guy who raised comedy to a height that no one since has dared or been able to match.
All that Tati requires of you is that you pay attention--not easy for many in this age. A lot of what happens on the screen is subtle and often complex. In a way it's like dealing with Shakespeare. I really don't recommend his films for those who like more overt and less cerebral comedy. Strangely, Tati films might work for some kids, the sort that get completely absorbed in a movie. Give it a try sometime and see what happens."