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Through his bumbling alter-ego Monsieur Hulot, the French director Jacques Tati struck the perfect balance of unadulterated whimsy and deft social satire. Hulot lumbered through four of Tati’s six features, beginning with the classic Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday in 1953 (presented here in a restored 35mm print) to 1971’s Trafic. For its series “The World of Jacques Tati,” AFI will screen them all, including The Big Day and Parade, neither of which is currently available on DVD in the U.S. Because Tati’s oeuvre is so small, it resonates with a potency his fellow auteurs watered down with lesser works. Even Trafic, while hardly essential, brims with Tati’s distinct ingenuity. The story follows Hulot, now an engineer for a French car manufacturer, on an ill-fated journey to the Amsterdam car show. Like Playtime, the film revels in the malfunctions that stymie our so-called progress. Tati’s most prescient skewering, however, comes by way of Maria, whose constant claims of “being in public relations” might be Trafic’s most absurd modern gadget serving no discernable purpose.
THE SERIES RUNS TO MARCH 28 AT THE AFI SILVER THEATRE AND CULTURAL CENTER, 8633 COLESVILLE ROAD, SILVER SPRING. SCREENINGS $6–$10. (301) 495-6720.