The Magnifying Class #6

01.12.2009


Trafic.

Another “Magnifying Class” is taking place the day after tomorrow at the University of Oxford. Our group will be analysing and discussing Jacques Tati’s Trafic (1971).

The film is another chapter in the comedian’s portrait of modern life as strange, perplexing, and alienating. Yet it is different from Play Time (1967), Mr. Hulot’s previous adventure. It is not just the focus that is different—the modernist architecture in Play Time, the traffic and automobiles in Trafic—but also the perspective. In this movie there is no dichotomy between the natural and the produced; the kind of contrast that was apparent in the previous work. Artificial human productions here seem almost human—when a car is, visually and aurally, likened to an animal pursuing a prey (that is, in fact, a tire). Objects have a life of their own, a life marked by functional activity and reflexive reactions—the car that rests after it has reached its destination.

Characters are not entirely defined. The film interested in their definition. That is why it is so difficult to grasp the development of characters. And that is why the formation of the couple in the end seems so surprising. In essence, characters are not psychologically characterised. The focus of the film is on their actions.

A purely formalist approach to the film would ignore how contemplation is encouraged instead of the simple recognition of formal patterns. The world is constantly rearranged, with Tati creating, and calling attention to, rhymes and parallels that seem almost casual—the yellow stripes of the road and Altra’s yellow truck.
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“The Magnifying Class”: #3 · #4 · #5