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Directed by Jacques Tati
Produced in 1967
Main Language - Original International Dialogue with English subtitles
Countries & Regions - European Film
Tativille, the name given to the enormous glass and concrete set of Playtime, is also a place of magical and delicate transformations; a patch of light on a floor is a glass of milk, a man locking a door is a horned beast, streetlights are lilies of the valley and cars at a roundabout are part of a gay merry-go-round. These visual metaphors have a lightness of touch that bely their surroundings, and are all the more surprising given Tati’s desperate financial straits during the shoot. They do however go to the heart of his comic enterprise to persuade us of the unintended humour all around us if only we would take the trouble to look.
A gently subversive and good-hearted reflection on the modern world and its gadgets, Playtime demands a lot of the viewer but amply rewards the trouble we take. There is such an abundance of inter-related visual humour that it is impossible to catch it all in one viewing, though the DVD format gives us the luxury of enjoying the sheer perfectionism with which Tati choreographed even the very smallest details, capturing them on 70mm film to show them to the best effect.
Originally recorded on 8-track stereo, Tati’s use of sound in the film is also a marvel. From the electronic oinks and quacks of the intercoms (animals must appear somewhere in a Tati film), to the hiss and whoosh of airy chairs, the heavy thunking of glass doors and the ‘International Dialogue’, Tati used sound in much the same way that he used flashes of colour, to direct our attention around his painstakingly-composed pictures. An apprenticeship in his family’s picture-framing business makes a lot of sense in this regard.
There is one last magical transformation at the end of the film. As the coach drives off into the night one streetlight remains unlit. With its shape resembling the apologetic stoop of M Hulot, it is Tati presiding over his utterly magnificent and utterly ruinous creation.
Graeme Hobbs on 14th July 2004
Author of 275 reviews
‘Film Tati No.4’ – regarded by many as Jacques Tati’s masterpiece – takes place in the ruinously extravagant but brilliantly effective steel and glass set that Tati constructed for the film – and which brought about his bankruptcy.
In the film, a wry comic take on the confusion and alienation of modern living, Monsieur Hulot fades into the background and traditional Tatiesque buffoonery mixes with cool and distanced observational humour.
An exercise in calculated comedy brilliantly visualised in widescreen and filmed on 65mm, it’s the director’s most demanding film, challenging you to roam around its spaces looking for the sight gags, some of them immensely subtle, and fully repays repeated rewatching – especially on Blu-ray, where the increased detail of the image is even more apparent.
Length: 114 mins
Cat No: BFIB1051
Format: DVD+Blu-ray Colour
- 2 discs.
by Anon on 19th November 2010
Just received a check disc of the blu-ray and it looks tremendous! From the jaw-droppingly clear opening shot after the credits of an office block in Tativille it is a... Read on
Just received a check disc of the blu-ray and it looks tremendous! From the jaw-droppingly clear opening shot after the credits of an office block in Tativille it is apparent that the blu-ray is a significant upgrade. Hide
by Anon on 14th July 2004
Misunderstood and occasionally unappreciated ever since its initial 1967 release, Tati's visionary masterpiece is now an undisputed classic. The hallucinatory, hypnoti... Read on
Misunderstood and occasionally unappreciated ever since its initial 1967 release, Tati's visionary masterpiece is now an undisputed classic. The hallucinatory, hypnotically strange modernist vision of a barely recognisable Paris is quite simply amazing. Hugely influential for its use of space, architecture and Tati's amazing ability to mine subtle observational humour out of literally 'nothing much going on', this visually beautiful film is a must for all film fans. It is also an object lesson to all aspiring filmmakers and critics alike on the use of sound in the cinema.
Tati show us how most definitely less is more, in visual and aural terms. He makes every single second of screen time count. This is incredibly difficult to achieve, yet Tati manages it all with effortless grace and dexterity, all the while charming and amusing us with the immortal Mr. Hulot's hilarious physical comedy. The French Buster Keaton? Why not; they both share an innate genius for visual and physical comedy, and the intuitive appreciation of cinematic space, which few directors, living or dead, ever fully understand. Whenever I see this movie I am reminded of Time Out's famous review of Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West (1968), which (I admit I am paraphrasing here) goes something like "The only critical tools you need are your eyes and ears: this is cinema!" How true and so apt of Playtime.
Tati's alter ego, the ever polite, angular Monsieur Hulot, is let loose on a Paris dominated by modern offices, pristine glass surfaces and scurrying, over-officious French nine-to-fivers. Whether filming the shimmering space of an airport lounge and check-in area in a hilariously evolving sequence shot in one long take, or bumbling in and out of a new office building's reception area, where the automatic doors emit one of the funniest sound FX in cinema, Tati's distanced, observational humour of life in all its idiosyncratic charm is constantly surprising and always very, very funny.
I saw this film again only recently as part of a National Film Theatre Tati season, and it was one of those occasions in the cinema that you instantly realise is special. Although the film's use of the wide screen and frame works so well up on the big screen, it will paradoxically work equally well on DVD. Here the 'audience' i.e. me, you, the dog, and the sofa, will just as readily appreciate the details and hilarious little asides Tati inserts in almost every shot and frame, which are easily missed at a single viewing.This movie rewards multiple viewings and DVD is undoubtedly the vehicle for that. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the Big Guy of Cinema must have had DVD in mind when he thought of PLAYTIME, as this is one of those classics which you will want to see again and again, and not get bored doing so.
Before I wax over lyrical about Tati and PLAYTIME, one last paragraph on the film's famous closing 35 minutes or so. Watch it as it unfolds, simply, beautifully and in one long sequence, and ask yourself this question: is there a funnier, more charming or beautifully observed and directed closing sequence on film? I hope your answer will be a resounding 'NO!'...
by Anon on 18th August 2000
Arguably Tati's masterpiece, this awesome work depicts Paris as a soulless concrete jungle in which the only shots of the old town are seen in postcard racks or glimps... Read on
Arguably Tati's masterpiece, this awesome work depicts Paris as a soulless concrete jungle in which the only shots of the old town are seen in postcard racks or glimpsed in window reflections. Tati's one-man battle against modernity comes to a hilarious climax in the famous restaurant scene, in which ingenious sight gags fill every corner of the screen. Hide
by DAVID on 1st April 2013
I found the films Jour de Fete and Les Vacances de M.Hulot very enjoyable and very funny. I bought the Playtime DVD because of the above firstly,secondly because it w... Read on
I found the films Jour de Fete and Les Vacances de M.Hulot very enjoyable and very funny. I bought the Playtime DVD because of the above firstly,secondly because it was restored and thirdly because it was filmed on 65mm film stock.Very disappointed.Images are sharp,but I consider it neither funny or interesting.Why he was given the money to build the vast set andeven more money for 65mm filmstock baffles me.DVD donated to Oxfam shop. Hide
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