Saturday 28 May 2011

Playtime [1967]

If Mr. Hulot’s Holiday was a refreshing comedy and Mon Oncle a lovely concoction of comedy and mild satire, Playtime, the third film in Tati’s brilliant Monsieur Hulot series, was a raging satire of the highest order – a cringing body blow against incessant automation and ultra-modernization. Unlike in the previous two films, the Paris we all know of is completely invisible here; instead what we have is a gray, wan, drab and utterly impersonal urban jungle of glass, steel and gadgets, and a never-ending stream of automobiles. And in this immensely dreary post-modern world, Hulot seems to be comically and anachronistically out of place – a nostalgic symbol of a lost era. The film is filled with some terrific gags and set-pieces, with the runaway winners being an elaborate, carnivalesque sequence at an upscale, recently refurbished restaurant, and one of the most unforgettable traffic jams ever recorded on screen. Its greatest achievement is that, despite being filled with blistering satire and sulphureous ironies, the message is never in-your-face, as they have been beautifully masqueraded through amazing wit and humour. Sadly for us cinephiles, because of its ambitious scale and radical scope, this movie nearly destroyed Tati’s career as a filmmaker par excellence.

p.s. My recent review of the film can be found here.

Director: Jacques Tati
Genre: Comedy/Social Satire/Urban Comedy
Language: French
Country: France


Jon said...

My personal favorite Tati film and probably his most perfect masterpiece. I saw this on a wide screen in 70MM a few years back. It was one of the most memorable moments I've ever had in a theatre.

Shubhajit said...

I envy you Johny. It sure must have been to see this fascinating film in 70 mm, so I can very well appreciate the kind of experience you must have had. And yeah, a lot of critics agree that this was Tati's greatest masterpiece.

Alex DeLarge said...

Jon you lucky cinephile! This does look excellent in high-def on a big screen and remains one of my favorite films. I need to see more Tati!

Shubhajit said...

This is an absolutely stunning film, no doubts whatsoever. The difficult task would be to perhaps rank the 1st 3 Hulot films in order of merit. I'll try and see the 4th & final film in this series shortly.