PLAYTIME, a playful indictment on modern living, is the third film to feature Jacques Tati’s comic character Monsieur Hulot (and the second one I’ve seen). But Hulot, and the American tourist he befriends, play such minor roles in the overall arc of the film. The narrative, played out in little encounters and vignettes, is more about the impersonal wasteland of modern Paris—Tati’s notoriously expensive set built from the ground up—and managing to find some joy in it. As a visual person, I love that it’s such a visual film: the humor is all sight gags and image-based puns, the dialog is mere ambient noise, and the story could be told in the use of color alone. There is so much visual information going on, and so many clever moments packed into each wide-angle shot, that I’m sure I would pick up on twice as much at the second viewing. And though it starts a bit slow, I think the turning point of the film is the opening of a posh new restaurant, barely slapped together before its first patrons arrive. As the restaurant starts to fall apart, the characters and the film itself start to come alive with a beauty and charm that’s difficult not to love.
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Tags: 1960, France, Tati