Playtime, 1967

Well, hello readers! Today I have my first guest post, from my lovely friend Hannah. We both share a love for film and our taste in movies overlaps quite a lot. Hannah has written about Tati’s Playtime which, shamefully, I have not seen, yet! But it’s at the top of my list, now…

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Playtime (1967) has been described as Jacques Tati’s most ambitious film, shot in 70mm with a 5 track stereophonic sound, Tati created his own city, with the help of over a hundred workmen in the outskirts of France, nearly bankrupting himself in the process. There was much gossip about the expense of the film, but as he pointed out at the time, to hire the likes of Sophia Loren or Elizabeth Taylor it would cost the same to shoot. This has to be my favourite Tati film, being an old fashioned sort I’m always drawn to people that have a unique antiquated way of existing. Playtime is Jacques Tati’s masterpiece, he’s the reason why I got all teary eyed sat in my stuffy university class; he filled me with hope and wonder at the prospect of studying cinema. He is my hero to put it simply.

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Playtime centres on a non-descript Paris, but you would never know it because the landscape is so generic, so sterile you’d be hard pushed to identify what country you were in. Only glimpses of the beauty that Paris has to offer are seen through swinging glass doors or reflections of clouds on skyscrapers. Tati also lampoons tourism as one tourist says triumphantly ‘ I feel at home wherever I go’ – indeed she is at home, because all the modern buildings that prevent people from being truly together all look the same. In the tourist office American holidaymaker Barbara gazes at the posters for other cities which all have the same generic buildings.

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Tati scatters his gags through each and every single frame; his use of long shots in the film requires the viewer to be attentive to what they are watching. Although the infamous Monsieur Hulot features in the film he is not the main attraction. Monsieur Hulot is the eccentric old fashioned gentlemen whose presence always leads to chaos, without him even realising! In Playtime, Tati created a film in which every character is vital to the plot.

Tati’s fantastic use of sound for comedic effect is prevalent throughout, the film starts out in what looks like a hospital, all stainless steel and clomping clogged nurses, we then hear a muffled tannoy announcement, but low and behold it’s a flight attendant, we are in fact at an airport.
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And that’s Tati’s point, Playtime satirizes how dependent and lost we have become with our modern commodities, how it stops us truly communicating with people and enjoying the moment we are in. Tati satirizes modern technology but at the dénouement with the congested roundabout that turns into a merry go round he shows that if people can adapt the new modernity to their lives instead of letting it consume them, everyday can be Playtime.
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