The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THE MAN IN THE HAT | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THE MAN IN THE HAT

The Man in the Hat review
Driving around the south of France, a stoic man encounters a variety of oddballs.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: John-Paul Davidson, Stephen Warbeck

Starring: Ciarán Hinds, Stephen Dillane, Muna Otaru, Maïwenn, Sasha Hails

The Man in the Hat poster






If you were ever curious as to how a Mr. Bean movie might play out were it directed by Bertrand Blier, The Man in the Hat has you covered. In a wordless performance, Ciarán Hinds is the behatted bloke of the title, a tourist of ambiguous origin who is enjoying some seasoned asparagus outside a waterfront café in the sunny south of France when his meal is interrupted by the arrival of a bunch of mobster types piled into a Citroën Dyane. The men remove what looks like a body wrapped in black bags and unceremoniously toss it into the sea. Spotted by the men, TMITH promptly hotfoots it away and takes off in his comically tiny FIAT 500 (which makes the bulky Hinds look a lot like Postman Pat on his rounds).

The Man in the Hat review


What ensues is a tribute to both silent comedy and those uniquely French road movies like Blier's Going Places, Patrice Leconte's Tandem, and Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern's Saint Amour. Hinds occupies the role you might expect to be taken by Gerard Depardieu here, and while he lacks the French star's comical oafishness, he commits himself well to a purely visual performance. We're given no backstory for his TMITH save for the photo of a young woman he carries around. Instead it's as though TMITH is a new-born child, innocently waking to the pleasures and dangers of the world.

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The episodic narrative sees TMITH encounter a variety of oddballs, like a suicidal man played by Stephen Dillane, an attractive woman who keeps flirting from afar, a troupe of singing female mechanics, and a pair of council workers who are slowly seducing one another while measuring random objects with a tape. TMITH observes such creatures like an inquisitive cat, breaking out in a childish grin until he is inevitably forced to move on by the arrival of the mobsters on his tail.

The Man in the Hat review


Director John-Paul Davidson is best known for helming a series of travel documentaries in which British luminaries like Stephen Fry and Michael Palin experience all the world has to offer. The Man in the Hat plays a lot like a fictionalised and idealised version of one of those shows, and it's a lot like Michael Winterbottom's The Trip series, if Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon were struck dumb. Davidson's co-director is Stephen Warbeck, an Oscar winning composer whose work can be heard in the likes of Shakespeare in Love and Billy Elliott. No surprise then that music plays a key role here. Along with Warbeck's jaunty jazz score, British singer-songwriter Mathilda Homer pops up for a dream sequence singalong, while local artists are constantly playing in the film's town squares.

The Man in the Hat review


If I were cruel, I might describe The Man in the Hat as inconsequential. It does play like an easy listening version of a Terrence Malick movie, and it might be accused of being a free promo for the French tourist board. Yet while it's denouement suggests it was made as a reaction to Brexit, in this COVID induced time of isolation, touring France vicariously with its titular protagonist proves a pleasant distraction.

The Man in the Hat is in UK/ROI cinemas from September 18th and on VOD from October 19th.




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