Country: France, Italy
Language: French, English
Director: Jacques Tati
Music: Francis Lemarque
Cinematography: Jean Badal, Andréas Winding
Haven’t done any homework when I was stumbling across my first Tati’s film, and never imagined a film could be made in this way, a legitimate horizon-widener of film-making.
The film commences in its befuddling narrative-void montages of variegated characters in the Paris airport of the vintage time, later, follows a group of American housewives-tourists embarks on their city route, first stop is a futuristic modern edifice of an Expo-esque site for a visit, while incorporating Monsieur Hulot (Tati himself), a well-mannered old man who keeps bypassing the man whom he supposedly should meet. After a short stopover at his upstart friend’s newly-purchased home, Monsieur Hulot fortuitously bumps into the guy he had been looking for all day during a rubberneckers’ gathering. The subsequent location resides in a nearly-furbished restaurant with a melange of patrons and staff (Monsieur Hulot and the American tourists included), the 45-minutes main course of all-inclusive gags, bloopers, transforms a hoity-toity eating place to a chaotic shindig, a sensible mockery and revelry of the vagaries of our humdrum activities. The film finishes with the tourists’ return to the airport in the dusk light, and Monsieur Hulot’s goodbye keepsake to one of the elegant American lady (Dennek), a silk kerchief, bespeaks the epitome of the metropolitan city.
Basically, the film flouts any narrative-driven urges to underpin a normal feature film, the first half, viewers are being induced of an impression amounts to a loitering in a museum, with gigantic visual installations, emancipate a post-modern surrealism through the architectures, interior designs and costumes. The mirror-reflection antics have been ingeniously imposed many times to highlight several landmarks of Paris, the interlude of a transparent home design with minimalistic accessories is still avant-garde 45 years after.
The restaurant bulk is more lively (both visually and aurally), a masterly farce encompasses minute boo-boos with miscellaneous players, every and each is done with a light touch but effectively strikes a chord with its resourceful wits and humor, and for certain, multiple watching is a must to extensively sense the virtuosity of all the arrangements, slapsticks and the esprit de corps, it is also the dramatic personae’s playtime, in spite of that each and every one is bit part, counting Monsieur Hulot.
Near the end, Tati culminates his love letter to Paris with a carousel-alike orchestration of vehicles lumbering around a circular parterre, an innovative amusement park metaphor renders immense pleasure through Tati’s mojo.
The film cost Tati 10 years in debt due to its commercial failure, with only 5 films made through his time, sadly it is a genius filmmaker and comedian who is way ahead of his time and should have been appreciated more. PLAYTIME is a marvelous feat, I cannot say if it is the case of Tati’s other oeuvre since I’m plain a beginner in the territory, and it shines immaculately in the BluRay disc, I wonder it would be a perfect option to be enjoyed even you just leave it play in the background, each time you glance it, you will discover little gems there, profoundly witty or optically stimulating.