A nuclear family of five lives an off-beat, but contented life in their home next to a major highway that never opened. For years, the paved expanse was just a big, long playground and the safety rail an eccentric border to be crossed each morning. The ghost road defined them as much as dad’s blue collar job, mom’s laundry chores, the elder daughter’s tanning routine, a younger daughter’s science experiments and Junior’s wolf cub naturalism. But when trucks appear one morn, tarring the road surface & painting car lanes, the family idyll is over, displaced by an endless rush of traffic, noise pollution & soot. This first feature from Ursula Meier seems a perfect set-up for slapstick gags loaded with cultural implications & philosophic musings behind every laugh, something for Jacques Tati or a modern Laurel & Hardy to play at.* No such luck, instead we’ve landed in deep-dish Euro-fest territory where everything serious gets spelled out for us . . . and for the finance committees that approve film funding. Isabelle Huppert & Oliver Gourmet give terribly fussy perfs as the parents while the three kids spend too much time stripping off their clothes & putting on psychic traumas. Surely that’s got things the wrong way ‘round.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *Try Buster Keaton’s astonishing first two-reel release, ONE WEEK/’22, or Harold Lloyd’s tri-part feature HOT WATER/24 to see how a couple of comic geniuses play with these formal elements. Or, as noted above, Tati’s slightly poky, deceptively savage, TRAFFIC/’71.