Trafic (1971)

16 07 2008

A wonderful and fitting conclusion to Tati’s “M. Hulot” saga but in all honesty, not that different from Play Time. Calling it an outright rehash might be a bit too critical, but there’s no doubt, at least not in my mind, that it plays heavily off of the success of Tati’s previous effort. Perhaps it ultimately depends on which film one sees first, but having seen Play Time first and by result, being such a big fan of it, this seems along the lines of Tati’s last-ditch effort to recapture the magic of his greatest feature. Trafic does have its share of inspired moments but not quite enough.

Monsieur Hulot has designed a camper vehicle for the Altra car company. The vehicle, filled with plenty of bizarre gadgets and accessories is set to debut at a car show in Amsterdam. There’s a big problem, though: the vehicle is in Paris and it doesn’t seem to be making any progress. With the camper on the back of the company’s truck, Hulot, a truckdriver named Marcel, and Alrta’s Public Relations representative, Maria, attempt to transport Hulot’s vehicle to Amsterdam in time to present it.

Trafic may have the upper-hand on Play Time in a few categories. For one, there’s not nearly as much “social message” material as in Play Time. Tati does give a nod to his previous film towards the end with a window-related joke, but he never goes to the lengths of banging the audience’s head with his views on society’s progression. He never really does this in Play Time either, but he still wears his views on his sleeve, as opposed to, here, he just subtly plugs in a few jokes expressing his concerns.

Another unique point for Trafic is the visual style that has a very downplayed/faded yet sort of saturated style that reminds me even a little bit of Hiroshi Ishikawa. I’ll admit that I feel a little silly equating the visual style of a French film from the early 70s to a twenty-first century Japanese film, but I suppose that shows that Tati did really know what the hell he was doing. It sounds a little naive, but I’ve always suspected Play Time to be a case of an accidental genius. This film shows that he wasn’t, but, at the same time, it doesn’t really provide anything particularly new. Of course, it has its fair share of funny sequences, but its just not really special enough, if that makes sense.

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