Charles Dumont

" Charles Dumont’s music to Trafic is infectiously lighthearted and simple. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the download only release

Trafic (1971) was the last in the series of Jaques Tati films featuring the character monsieur Hulot, desperately out of place wherever he goes. This time, Mr. Hulot is trying to deliver a uniquely designed camper from Paris to the auto fair in Amsterdam, but naturally faces complications en route. As with any Tati film, this one envisioned as directorial collaboration with Bert Haanstra, ending up only receiving writers credits, there are great observations about society, communication barriers and generally places the character in a place and time he is bound to get lost in. while the overarching theme is the bond between humans and their cars.

Tati treats each of his films as silent movies and his overall sound design is very specifically designed to accentuate or isolate, thus adding to the overall observatory role of anyone watching these films. Charles Dumont’s music to Trafic is infectiously lighthearted and simple, and while it does sometimes function like the overall idiosyncratic sound design, its role is more diverse.

Dumont’ score relies on a variety styles and instruments, from groove, jazz improvisation, whistles, wordless dumdum and lala vocals, banjo, (electric) guitar, drum kits, Hammond organ and funk, while using two recurring themes. Its main theme, as introduced in the opening cue, is a small, very attractive melody, straightforwardly comical. It frequently communicates and accentuates the old-fashioned, happy, and slapstick feelings associated with Mr. Hulot, while the contemporary stylized versions contrasts and accentuate his failure to connect to the modern world. The theme offers an instantly rewarding tongue in cheek comical feel; from a banjo take to a jazzy variation with whistling and dumdum wordless vocals. Yet, arguably, the most infectious theme for any Hulot movie is Franck Barcellini's main theme for Mon Oncle.

At other times, its main theme serves as an equally important role as the rest of the sound design in observing human behavior in their cars; how the screen wipers of several cars display their own method of movement, each with their own enlarged sound, and peculiar driver, while the recurring theme by Dumont strengthens the satirical and observatory comment.. In another brilliant sequence, an alternative, very creative car collision, the same musical theme is used in a tongue in cheek manner in its aftermath.

In other scenes the music pretends to be there for accidental reasons, crafting an overarching atmosphere, or specifically used for a character, such as the theme for Maria. From the start, Maria, a fashionable icy pr-agent, is trying to help Mr. Hulot en route, but often causing her attitude to slow down the journey to the auto fair even more. Her theme is introduced as a touching, gentle lalala and humming-infused theme that stays much the same in ensuing variations, contradicting her as a strictly professional, but fashionable person. As the film progresses, she transforms into a more normal person, which is musically presented by the final rendition, Maria version 4, in a lovely expressive bossa nova, featuring a full female chorus, hinting at her transition into a more approachable person.

The music is very infectious and charming and funny, but some music simply doesn’t work as a separate listening. Trafic, regardless of my praise for Dumont' music is instantly rewarding when revisiting a singular cue, but as full experience quickly becomes a monotone listening. Universal previously released the music on CD, which is now available as a download.

1. Trafic 3:28
2. La route 1:41
3. Maria 2:25
4. La course d'autos 3:57
5. Trafic (Version 2) 3:01
6. Maria (Version 2) 1:26
7. Les lignes jaunes 0:46
8. Trafic (Version 3) 2:37
9 .La route (Version 2) 1:45
10. Maria (Version 3) 1:41
11. Paris Amsterdam 2:32
12. Marche de la RAI 2:18
13. Trafic (Version 4) 2:08
14. Maria (Version 4) 1:45

Total duration: 31:30

(written 25-04-2021)
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 1 votes - average 3/5)

Released by

Universal France (download only release 2021)