Friday, April 13, 2007


Yesterday's Jacques Tati double-feature included, first, Jour de fĂȘte* (1949), one of Tati's very early movies, and then Trafic* (1971), one of his latest. In the first (the title loosely translates into "the Big Day"), a one-carousel carnival comes to a provincial town in France, inspiring whimsical slapstick from the backward town postman, François. When he peeps in on a screwy movie purporting to document the high-flying daredevils of the US Postal Service, the disparity between his relaxed mailman style and the brave new future is a gap he feels he must bridge. Visually, this movie is modest by Tati's later standards: shot in black-and-white with clever use of hand-tinting, the rural setting lends an intimacy completely shed by 1967's Playtime* (a film I saw recently*). The jaunty slapstick is a warm physical comedy of human interaction, not the landscape of balletic Golbergian visual patterns to be found in Tati's later work. But here is the bourgeoning of the theme that drove Tati through his career: the interplay between traditional lifestyles and the modern mechanism seeking to quash it. Trafic, made after Playtime, extends this juxtaposition between a stultifying unnatural world and the innocents inhabiting it. His characters endure an actual plot: several designers make their way from Paris to an Amsterdam auto show with a gimcrack camper car prototype: a stubby woody with a Swiss Army Knife's-worth of spring-loaded features. The rhythms of the roadway play easily into the filmmaker's choreographed interests even as the passing nod to road-movie episodism renders it the most narrative of the Tati films I've seen. But intermixed between the stuffy old-fashioned M. Hulot, Tati's recurring character, and reports of the Apollo 12 moonshot reverently displayed on each passing TV screen, the movie finds optimism: maybe there's a better future than this. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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