I’ve been making my way through the work of Jacques Tati, and admittedly, a lot of it hasn’t connected with me the way I hoped it would (not that I can’t appreciated the genius of his work, it just hasn’t hit me personally). With that said, I watched “Playtime” last night, and I have to say, I was pretty blown away. “Playtime” simply feels like a masterpiece. The culmination and perfection of the style he developed over the course of "Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot" and "Mon Oncle".
This is Tati’s most visually compelling film, and this is do in part to the very large set built for the film. So large in fact, that it even had its own power pant. It became known as Tativille, and while it may have caused Tati to go way over budget, the final result is gorgeous.
Tativille also added value to the over arcing narrative, because In "Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot", M. Hulot seems well placed in his world. In "Mon Oncle", Hulot has a home that suits him well, but the home of his relatives is ultra modern, and he doesn’t really belong. But then in "Playtime", the whole world is urban and modern. It is here that he seems the most displaced. It’s as if Tati himself felt his world was slipping away from him. This theme is punctuated by a group of american tourist who come to see paris, but end up navigating monochromatic glass buildings and shopping in futuristic modern showrooms. One of my favorite moments is when one of the american tourist opens a glass door, and we see the reflection of the Eiffel Tower. She stops and stares for just a instant before her fellow tourist pull her inside. It’s these kind of moments that show Tati’s brilliance.
- Joshua McQuilkin