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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot (1969), a two-hour documentary tracing the evolution of Jacques Tati's beloved alter ego
  • Interview from 1971 with the cast of Trafic, from the French television program Le journal de cinťma
  • "The Comedy of Jacques Tati," a 1973 episode from the French television program Morceaux de bravoure
  • Theatrical trailer

Trafic

2008 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Tati
Starring: Jacques Tati
1971 | 97 Minutes | Licensor: Studio Canal

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #439 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 15, 2008
Review Date: July 11, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

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 company'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.

Forum members rate this film 6.9/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion finally gets around to releasing Jacques Tatiís Trafic on DVD presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on the first dual-layered disc. Unfortunately, again, the image has been pictureboxed.

Other than that the image presented is pretty good if not great. I was most impressed with how clean the print was, only presenting a few flaws such as the occasional vertical line. Sharpness and detail is excellent in both close-ups and long shots. There were some artifacts in a couple sequences, but nothing too distracting. Colours are somewhat muted, a little on the drab side, though Tatiís colour scheme leans more towards blues and grays. Blues are very strong while reds and yellows look decent, but flesh tones come off somewhat pale.

Still, I thought the film looked quite good overall. The clean-up of the print is exceptional and the image is very sharp and clear. A nice looking transfer for the film.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The disc includes a good Dolby Digital 1.0 mono French track. While Tatiís films donít usually depend all that much on the audio, his audio tracks can get rather complex with many people speaking at once and a variety of sound effects thrown in. The track presented here is rather clean, free of distortion and noise. Voices and sound effects sound great, though dialogue is not always easy to hear because of how some sequences are film. Itís a fairly busy track for the most part but the track handles it perfectly and it sounds good.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The film gets a nice two-disc release from Criterion, containing a couple of decent features. All of the features are presented in 1.33:1 full frame.

The first disc contains a few supplements under the menu selection aptly called ďSupplementsí. The first is a 14 and half minute interview with Tati from an episode of a television program called Morceaux de bravoure. In this segment, which first aired in 1973, Tati begins by discussing a bit about how Trafic came about (him watching traffic one Sunday morning.) The best part of the segment has Tati get into his influences and his favourite names in comedy (he names Fields, Keaton, and Chaplin of course, but surprisingly mentions Woody Allen) and then gives the interviewer a performance of sorts. Overall an excellent interview clip.

The next supplement is a 7-minute interview with members of the cast of Trafic from an episode of Le journal du cinema. In this interview they talk about the film and their impressions of Tati, who they call a keen observer (this is the primary theme throughout the supplements on this release.) A little brief and maybe not that deep, but itís an decent piece to watch.

The first disc then closes with the theatrical trailer.

I was so far a little disappointed with the set, but the second dual-layer disc presents the real meat to the release. While the second disc only contains one supplement, itís a big one, a 1989, 104-minute documentary on Tati created by his daughter, Sophie Tatischeff. Called In the Footsteps of M. Hulot it covers Tatiís career from his early films to his Hulot films and then finally Parade. Itís primarily made up of interview segments with Tati, his guest spots on other shows, and clips from Award shows. It also mixes in clips from his films, behind-the-scene segments (primarily from Playtime) and general footage. Divided into two parts itís extensive and gives an excellent portrait of the man. In the interview segments Tati talks a lot about his films, discussing his themes, his techniques, and what his ultimate desire was (basically to make people smile,) along with how he observes things around him. These discussions alone make the documentary worth watching. My favourite segment would have to involve the making of Playtime, a production Iíve been fascinated with after first seeing the film, but overall the documentary is quite strong and was a treat for me since admittedly I actually donít know all that much about Tati. It concludes with Tati accepting a Cťsar díhonneur and expressing his support for short films, and then gives a glimpse at the restoration of the colour version of Jour de fete. Well worth watching.

The booklet included presents an essay on the film By Jonathan Romney which offers a great look at Trafic and how it compares to the rest of Tatiís work (itís obviously one of the weaker films, probably not helped by the fact it followed the incredibly large Playtime.)

The supplements on the first disc are pretty good, but itís the documentary on the second disc that makes this disc more rewarding, but I donít know if it makes the release worth $39.95. And while I appreciated the look at Tati and his career I was disappointed with the lack of features specific to Trafic itself (the documentary gives only a brief look at the film.) Also I rather enjoyed Terry Jonesí introductions on the other Tati releases and was a little disappointed he wasnít asked to give one for this release. But I did enjoy going through what was provided here.

7/10

CLOSING

I guess I question the higher price point for this DVD, but it is a good release. The film looks and sounds quite good and the documentary offers an excellent look at the life and work of Jacques Tati. For admirers of Tatiís work the release is must have.


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