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Tati's final theatrical film, which is often considered his greatest failure, is in actuality nearly as good as his masterpieces. In this film, Tati stars for the fourth and final time as M. Hulot. This time he has a job as an automobile designer, and it is his job to get his company's new Camping Car to Amsterdam for a big auto show. Accompanying him is a driver, François, and a public relations worker, Maria (played marvelously by Maria Kimberly, who reminds us of the great lead actress roles played by Nathalie Pascaud and Barbara Denneck in M. Hulot's Holiday and Playtime respectively). Maria drives around in a little yellow convertible with her little fur-ball dog. Its fast and maneuverable. It can go pretty much anywhere it wants. Unfortunately, François and M. Hulot are driving a large truck. They often get into trouble when they're trying to follow Maria's car. Every problem that can happen does. Many observations are made about how people act when they're in their cars on the highway (it's a non-stop traffic jam from Paris to Amsterdam). The jokes in Traffic are always hilarious. The first fifteen or twenty minutes are somewhat dry of them, which is mainly why I don't rank this one up there with M. Hulot's Holiday, Mon Oncle, and Playtime (it's about even with Jour de fête). But when it gets going, it never stops. And it's beautiful, too, just as all of his other films. The final sequence is sublime, and the final shot will stay with me forever. 9/10.
Whilst not Tati's best by any stretch of the imagination the genius of the
man still shines through. Having lived in France for a while I see more
humour in this film, particularly in the comedic observation, than before.
The French may be fanatical about cinema and may well have produced some
the world's greatest film makers but out and out comedy probably ranks
down in terms of output. Maybe it's something to do with the French sense
humour (whatever that may be). Unlike British, and to a lesser extent US
comedy, self-parody is not a French strength. It could be something to do
with their history and education but the culture, so strong in literature
and the arts seems not to demean itself with pure laughter. Most cinema
would probably be hard put to list 10 French comedies - other than perhaps
drama with the occasional comic undertones. Les Visiteurs (the original
the recent re-make) is probably one of the better examples but here again
there's little or no self-mocking.
So it was left to Tati to mine the seam - and how well he mined it. Here he takes the smallest of French (dare I say Parisian) mannerisms and extends them into lengthy scenes of beautifully observed comedy. Whether it's the windscreen wipers in tune with the occupants or the nose-picking drivers, he asks the French to at least smile, if not laugh out loud, at themselves.
Yes, the film does move at rather a slow pace and there are times when the comic observation sags, but the sight of dear old M Hulot in his mackintosh, loping along with pipe jutting from his mouth will ever remain one of cinema's delights.
Unlike the previous reviewer, I have to say that the French made many
great comedies. But just as there are many styles in US cinema, so are
there many styles in other countries.
"Trafic" is a wonderful stab at modern life and our infatuation with cars that is more up to date than ever, with traffic jams at an all time high.
In passing, or rather sitting, through the summery vacation road chaos this Tati movie slaps everything from drivers' behaviors and quirks that are border less, to general human characteristics, and even matters of national pride.
I disagree with the inability of the French to laugh at themselves - but one needs to realize that the humor involved is very deep and tongue in cheek, but is just about even more stinging because it is not so superficial.
What makes this movie, just like the other Tati movies so remarkable, is that one does not need to speak or understand French and can still watch it in its original sound track, because the camera does all the work. "Shtick" with brains, a piece of visual art that might hang in a modern art gallery, were it not a movie, self contained, intelligent, funny. It is a neat feature about most Tati films.
I remember being in stitches when I last saw it, and that was after seeing it several times already.
Other great French comedies would be the original versions of
"The Tall Blonde With The Red (Black) Shoe", ie "Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire"
(note that the original odd shoe was black, not red),
"Birdcage", ie "La Cage Aux Folles", the German title of which was much closer to the actual "A Cage Of Fools" .... oh heck, just look up movies with Pierre Richard, Jean Rochefort, the unknown to Americans (because he would have put Hollywwod to such shame to kill their business in comedy) all time unforgettable Louis De Funes, Fernandel, Mireille Darc, Yves Montand, Jean Paul Belmondo (one of his movies is an obvious blueprint for Indiana Jones), .... these are all true actors that are also capable of character studies and can deliver such a punch that it flies right over many people's heads .... maybe the previous reviewer is right ... the French have no comedy ... not of the shallow sitcom style in any case. If you can laugh with your whole heart, head , and soul though, then start digging and you will find much of the best ever made.
I didn't know what to expect when I went to see this movie many years ago.
I was delightfully surprised. This is a very funny movie, but it is
in it's kookie-ness.
Two men have developed a new camping van and have set out to take it to an outdoors show. This should be an ordinary trip full of coffee, donuts and long boring stretches of road. But no, this does not take place in America; it starts in Paris and the goal is Amsterdam. Much can happen along such a route, and in this case, just about everything does.
Will they make it there before the show has ended? Will their dreams of being successful come to pass? These are the driving questions of this movie. They seem rather uninteresting goals, don't they? Nevertheless, these characters will likely win you over and have you rooting for them as they make their bumbling stab at entrepreneurship. Or, just as likely, you may find yourself enjoying every obstacle that steps in their way, as I did.
Much is unexpected in this movie and that's what makes it fun! Share this one with your friends and they will thank you.
Note: this is a comedy, there's not much gore or street fights, shoot-outs or bombs taking out city blocks, so be forewarned, this movie with not shake your subwoofer.
Although not a spy movie, it somewhat reminds me of the original "Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe": another wonderful French comedy.
Jacques Tati's final Hulot film concerns an attempt to get a camper car
from Paris to the Amsterdam car show. Its Hulot on the road.
Made in the wake of the disastrous reception of Play Time this was Tati pretty much doing a contract work to get some money. The result is a less refined film than either of his previous two films, much of the film being less precise gags and set pieces, rather its the insanity of just getting from here to there. Filled with people this is possibly the most alive of the four Hulot films. There are what passes for close ups and we we see everyone as individuals and not merely as ants marching in sterile environments. Its a real world film something none of the preceding Hulot films really is.
For those who have seen the three previous films this is a film where details are filled in. Where Mon Oncle had Hulot looking for a new job, here we see the one that he finds, working in auto design. We also get to finally see his ever present umbrella opened. Most interesting is the fact that there is perhaps a hint of romance or if not real romance the sense that he is not an isolated human being. This is the film where the character finally comes to life as something more than a character.
For many people this is a lesser Tati film. It doesn't have the ideas of the previous two films. Outside of the camping car there is no real set piece to make your intellect marvel. The film is not a mediation of grand ideas, there are some, but when you get down to it its a comedy. A real laugh out loud comedy that is almost the exact opposite of Play Time where most of the humor brings smiles but not belly laughs.
I think its a very good film. Certainly its not his best, I would have to say that would be Hulot's Holiday since it mixes the intellectual humor with the belly laugh. This I would probably put as second simply because I genuinely laughed repeatedly at this film, something I didn't do with Mon Oncle and Play Time. I think a good argument could be made for the film being better than its reputation (The laughs, the sense of life and people, and even the lack of pretension). I will agree its not a great film, it does suffer from the meandering that Play Time and Oncle have, but it is a funny one.
If you like any of the earlier films see this movie. If you like funny comedies I also suggest you try this film. It may not go down as your favorite film but I'm pretty sure you will laugh at it, which is all I think it was ever designed to do.
Jacques Tati attempts to drastically transform his alter ego for the
final installment of the Hulot series, and naturally you can't blame
him (one being that this comes after the financial disaster of
Playtime, but especially because of the fact that he has added
dimensions to Hulot in every film) but in most respects, Traffic is
considerably stunted. It's still quite good, but a serious
disappointment after Holiday, Oncle, and Playtime, which after
ascending in genius and brilliance, there would be no place to go but
Traffic has the most conventional plot of the entire series - there's a set goal (getting the Altra car to the convention) - but rather than making the film more accessible, it only makes it more alien. All the Hulot films are blithely and happily adrift, propelled only by its jokes and reoccurring characters, but in the case of having a clear goal in mind, the deliberate slow pacing begins to weigh the film down. Because we are anticipating their arrival at the car show, throughout the movie we wonder what's in store and the build-up creates impatience, rather than the usual relaxation. If Tati was going for accessibility and conventionality, why didn't he employ a faster, three-act structure?
It's unfortunate to see gone the Hulot of old who was content on just walking around for days; in Trafic he's constantly running around doing busy work (he's on screen for nearly half the movie but actually doesn't do much of anything noteworthy). Like in the other films, he never knows what to do with himself and the world doesn't know what to do with him, but in Trafic, the problem is that this is a world Hulot created: he designed the Altra and it is he who wants to get it to the car show. He is imposing himself on the world, rather than the world that is crashing down on him and him fighting back, so the gags and observations aren't as pure or natural.
The stops the mini-caravan makes and the exploration of new roadside towns are perfect opportunities to bring back the old Hulot, but Tati seems almost afraid to let the world come to Hulot on their own terms. Scenes like two kids playing a beautiful tune on an acoustic by a lake or Hulot arriving at a convenience store feel like set-ups for great scenes which were left on the editing room floor.
I still really enjoyed the movie (there are some inspired visuals and Hulot is Hulot; it's always great to see him on the screen) but these were specific negative points I thought were worth bringing up.
It takes about half an hour for this film to warm up, but once it gets going, it is a great watch. As the fourth entry in Tati's M. Hulot series, the film is not quite as good as the two previous entries, 'PlayTime' and 'Mon Oncle', but it is still a fine film on its own, with not only amusing puns but also interesting satirical elements once again. Like with the previous two films, 'Trafic''s jokes owe a lot to the way in which the shots are set up, and in general Tati does a fine job visualising the material. Some shots appear to lack meaning or thematic motivation, but in general they help to flesh out the humour at technology. It is also interesting how there is a distinct lack of close-ups until the end. Everything going on is so interesting that one wants to look closer, but Tati places the viewer at a distance. The jokes are often funnier because we cannot see the finer details, and this is perhaps Tati saying something in the way of that if we distance ourselves we can see humour that we might miss otherwise if we try to examine everything too closely. As usual, the music used is excellent too, fitting in well with the on-screen action. Overall, the film does not work quite as well as 'PlayTime' and 'Mon Oncle', but there is little reason to regard it as an inferior entry - just a lesser entry, perhaps.
What can we make of Trafic, Jacques Tati's last film? It certainly
isn't a major success, as M. Hulot's Holiday and Mon Oncle are. It's
not a gallant failure, as I believe Playtime is. It seems to me that it
is a sad, sometimes amusing combination of those things that made Tati
so unique, so funny, so problematic and so drawn to making mundane
social commentary. There must be something in the water we drink or the
bread we eat that causes some humans with extraordinary artistic gifts
to believe that because they are great artists they also must have
equally great gifts of social philosophy, gifts which they are
determined to share with us.
By the time Tati made Trafic, four years after Playtime, he had lost ownership of his life's work, his films, and most of his money. Playtime was a debacle. He spent a fortune, his own as well as others, to craft a perfectionist's dream of artistic control. He ended up with a movie that was filled with surprises, layer on layer of -- for wont of a better term -- sight and sound gags, with fascinatingly complex amusements for an audience willing to let the situations develop around them, and seemingly endless, obvious and often impersonal visual commentary on the homogenizing of modern society and the perils of technology. Most moviegoers were not all that interested.
Now, with Trafic, Mr. Hulot has come back. He is a designer for a Paris auto company, and he has developed a camping vehicle like no other. Trafic is the story of Mr. Hulot's delivery of his camper from Paris to an international auto show in Amsterdam. It's a long journey filled with misunderstandings, accidents and crashes, a PR executive with an endless number of dress changes, cops, windshield wipers and a lot of cars. The movie is as exquisitely built as an expensive vest pocket timepiece. Unfortunately, time has a way of catching us up, and Mr. Hulot now is a man past middle age, where male innocence seems unlikely and somewhat unattractive. Tati was 64 now, and he looks it. The gentle, innocent mime who meets unexpected personal situations at a small seaside hotel or tries to help his young nephew has been replaced by a well-meaning older gentleman we more often observe than we root for. His encounters with the clichés of faceless technology and bumbling bureaucracy are increasingly with people with few understandable, sympathetic foibles. Mr. Hulot to be at his best needs people we can come to like and interact with, not simply interchangeable stand- ins...even if they're picking their noses in the privacy of their cars (in a sight gag probably only Tati could have pulled off).
Mr. Hulot only appeared in four feature-length movies. It is Tati's genius that in less than 500 minutes he gave us such a memorable and appealing human being. Tati's layering of sight gags is unique and often intensely and unexpectedly funny. With Trafic, however, I found my interest more intellectual than anything else. There were stretches of the film that simply weren't all that engaging. And this, of course, is all just opinion.
This is a slow comedy - the best way to enjoy it is to invite some friends over, put some nice wine or beer plus something to eat on the table and let the "story" unfold on a big screen (Tati's compositions are worth the big screen, even if the film stock is of low quality). Some of the scenes resemble car ballets! "Trafic" satirizes man and his obsession with fetish #1, the car, but it does so in a very nice way, not condemning or condescending, more like a nature documentary showing the behaviour of some strange species. The comedy is very close to Buster Keaton's, at its center technological gadgets, slapstick and social interactions slipping into the absurd. My favourite scene might be the one where some mechanics are repairing the car while watching a live broadcast from the moon (yep, the movie is that old) and begin imitating the low-gravity motions of the astronauts. It's rarely laugh-out loud but it's always inducing smiles! Highly recommended if your attention span is up to it.
Trafic certainly isn't the last film by Jacques Tati, but it sure is
the last successful and well known one. Mostly because it is his last
film with his standard character, Monsier Hulot. After Trafic Tati
still directed the television Sweden-France co production Parade (1974)
and started making the sports-documentary Forza Bastia, which his
daughter, Sophie Tatischeff edited and finished in 2002. But I
personally like to see Trafic as his last film, as his cinematic
The plot of Trafic is very simple; Mr. Hulot, car driver and the PR girl have to take a new car to an exhibition in Amsterdam. They arrive few days late - the only actual exhibition is at the customs. The world of Jacques Tati is full of gags, he doesn't spend much time with his stories, but he writes his gags for years. And the pleasantly surprising thing is how the gags are made - they aren't taken too far, as they often are in comedies of today. Dozens of events happen at the same time, dozens of people get in these and by coincidence they come across with each other.
The destruction of old core values and habitat have been common themes for Jacques Tati. But in Play Time (1967) and Trafic (1971) he goes far deeper in the mechanization of life. Play Time showed us the futuristic Paris cursed by globalization. It would be too superficial to see Play Time simply just as a satire of urban living and modern society. In Trafic we see that Tati doesn't build that big a difference between urban and rural living. People come across with same kind of situations, troubles and madness. I think Play Time is his highest achievement and it's so much more than just a satire about modern society. In Play Time's postmodern Paris and in Trafic's highway the individual finds the very same challenges.
Trafic is basically a satire about mass industry - cars are built and built so long until the consumers are satisfied, which will never happen. This is the age people live their lives with avarice. Just as Mon oncle so is Trafic about consumer hysteria - the customs scene is a great example of this. The mechanization of life is the main theme in Play Time and in Trafic - in Trafic, once again, the customs scene is the greatest example of this, but it can be seen in just about every scene. For instance the randomness of relationships, which is a reflection of the twisted relation between work and the mechanization of life.
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