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Traffic

(Trafic)
France/Italy 1971. Director: Jacques Tati
Cast: Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly, Marcel Fraval, Franco Ressel, Mario Zaneulli

Our age of the automobile is delightfully, deliciously skewered in Jacques Tati’s Traffic, the actor-director’s final theatrical feature and the film that marked his last screen appearance as the much-loved M. Hulot. (Parade, a non-Hulot feature made for Swedish television in 1974, would be Tati’s final hurrah.) Rivalling Playtime for ingenious design and endless invention, Traffic has bumbling Hulot as an automobile designer for Altra Motors travelling with latest prototype, a gizmo-filled recreational vehicle, from Paris to the Amsterdam auto show. Accompanying him is Maria, the firm’s swinging, styling publicist, who drives a yellow sports car. Much motoring mayhem breaks out along the hazardous way; the array of brilliant sight gags includes, memorably, a sequence involving people who surreptitiously pick their noses in traffic, and another that has windshield wipers mirroring the personalities of drivers. “Splendidly funny . . . exuberantly entertaining . . . Traffic is the very special work of a filmmaker with a unique gift for visual comedy” (Vincent Canby, New York Times). “Tati, who’s brilliant at commenting on modernization, here again provides insights into modern life that make for one of the freshest and funniest pictures to hit the screen in years” (James Monaco). Colour, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 96 mins.

REVIEWS

"Like Godard, Tati is also remarkably appreciative of the odd beauty that can be revealed in the shapes, patterns and colors created by the technology of planned obsolescence."

New York Times | full review

"A masterpiece in its own right -- not only for the sharp picture of the frenetic and gimmick-crazy civilization that worships cars, but also for many remarkable formal qualities."

Chicago Reader | full review

"Brilliant new comedy."

Chicago Sun-Times | full review