“The Man in the Hat” (PG) ***
HERE’S a movie with great charm, a good supply of human observation, an unhurried observation of French countryside, a journey to wherever and nowhere and absolutely no plot.
Written and directed jointly by John-Paul Davidson and Stephen Warbeck, it stars venerable craggy-faced Irish-born actor Ciarán Hinds whom we see driving a tiny Fiat 500L car along narrow country roads, steep hillsides, across parts of France where movie-makers seldom venture and characters in major movies seldom live.
The Man has no name. He makes friends easily, sharing their meals, lodgings, and daily events. People help him when the Fiat encounters mechanical problems. He helps people in moments of need. He can speak. But he rarely does.
Early in the movie, he becomes distraught when his blue rag hat falls from a bridge. By the time he gets down to the edge of the stream, the Damp Man (Stephen Dillane) has recovered it. The Damp Man crops up in various places – waiting on tables in the café run by the Chef (Muna Otaru), at other places along the Man’s journey doing other things.
A pretty girl and a handsome young man hold a measuring tape across roads in the Man’s path, around the boles of big trees beside it.
A battered old Renault keeps following the Man. Fearing what its five occupants will do to him, he keeps fleeing them. What they are about is as close to mystery as anything in the film. Their intentions are benign.
“The Man in The Hat” may lack dramatic fabric but it delivers an ongoing charm even when the Man is having problems. It’s intelligent zany cinema with no apparent purpose, until the end credits start rolling and you begin to realise that you’ve been enjoying it without realising why. I regard that as a bonus.
At Palace Electric