Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
Jacques Tati’s gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with Playtime, a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.
What a mess. What a beautiful fucking mess. Chaos and adventure reign. Nothing like a film that completely seduces you after a string of previous films failings that do naught to jolly your rodgers. I did not expect this magnetism. I did not lace my boots or put my tray table up in time. This is my first Jacques Tati film, poppin' cherries all over the place. With this ambitious paragon of hypnotism he goes straight to the top of the director to-do list. It is very sad to read of the debt and trials that he had to go through to get this made, and had to continue through for a decade after. I for one welcome our new…
I have mixed feelings towards Jacques Tati's Playtime. The first half is filled with plenty of hilarious and clever gags, being just a delightful adventure. Monsieur Hulot goes through a lot of confusing as well as unfortunate situations and he is one of those incredibly sympathetic characters you just can't help rooting for. Playtime is Tati's love letter to Paris and I liked how it deals with people's struggle with modern technology and the hectic life in the city. The second half of the film focuses on a busy night in a restaurant, which is surrounded by chaos and unforeseen events. It wasn't as interesting as the first portion for me and while it certainly contained a couple of excellent…
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Now this is beyond what I expected after Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot - A cinematic marvel to be adored and respected and quite simply, a work of astounding genius. I think I really needed this extra level of Tati to really appreciate his art, and with it's colour presentation aiding me to escape my desire to compare him with the masters of the silent era. Filmed over 3 years, this ambitious vision of a world where modernity and technology obscures mans interaction with each other and everything is transparently artificial, Monsieur Hulot tries to navigate a Paris of steel lines and glass panes to share his heart with someone, anyone. From one ingeniously staged episode to…
For whatever reason, Playtime was in the same company for me as Sansho the Bailiff, The Earrings of Madame De..., and Persona as highly acclaimed films that carry with them a presence and intimidation. In hindsight, why a Tati film would come off as daunting sounds pretty ridiculous.
I had heard over the years it's use of architecture and setpieces as a main focal point, and that surely was the case. The entire screen was used to full effect, and was absolutely gorgeous on blu-ray. It's set in modern Paris, constructed from scratch, with plenty of steel, glass, and other symbols of alienation. The film wasn't so much about Tati's Monsieur Hulot as the camera is constantly viewing the landscapes…
Playtime is like a Richard Scarry or Where's Wally? book in very elegant, moving form.
There is so much to take in, there are so many tiny events in every scene, that I don't for a minute doubt the other reviewers here who say how spectacular this film is on this big screen.
But no matter whether you see it on a TV or in the cinema, there is no equivalent of being able to stare at a huge illustration for ten minutes until you've taken it all in - at least not without substantially spoiling the experience of this as a film by endless freeze-framing.
Its feeling of so much happening, of almost too much going on in front…
Heretical confession: Though my first viewing was ideal—70mm on the giant Lumière screen at Cannes in 2002, right after its restoration—I think I enjoyed it more at home (on Blu-ray). Rather than feeling continually anxious about what I might be missing in a far corner of the screen (my own idiocy, admittedly), I was able to relax and allow my attention to be subtly directed, which made the first half much funnier. And even when the office-set stuff isn't hilarious, it's consistently awe-inspiring, particularly in the way that adjacent shots navigate the architecture; each new angle builds on the previous one, usually in a way that requires a brief but invigorating moment of visual recalibration. Until night falls, yes,…
2nd watch, yet it was almost like a first time experience as I'd missed so much originally.
Shot over 3 years at Tati's purpose built set at a steep cost that would ultimately force the great man into debt and bankruptcy, this is probably one of the cleverest, most ambitious comedies you'll ever see. I say comedy - yet there's no belly laughs, there's no jokes - or is the joke just on us? This consumerist, shallow society that Tati expertly mocks... and look what we've become.
A vision of the future.
Tati's first widescreen film, filmed on 70mm, this is his visual masterpiece. If Mon Oncle was his funniest film, this is his most ambitious, his most unique and singular. The way he plays with audience expectations, the way he hides M. Hulot, the way he creates such a sad story among the silliness, it's just never-before-seen. It's also never been topped. The closest film I can think to compare to this is Brazil, but where that film is insane in its tone and pacing, this film is meticulous and quieter, though in no way quiet.
It also feels so jazzy and off the cuff simultaneously with its meticulousness. It's a contrast is a comment on the confusing time that Tati…
Glorious. Once you get used to the film's format, with Hulot weaving in and out of the film, it grabs your attention. The second half in the restaurant was genius. The film's ending at least gives us some hope that humanity may survive the modern age after all, once we escape the modern theme parks that our major cities have become.
"Life will find a way."
Second viewing, this time on the big screen.
‘Playtime’ is easily one of the most visually exacting films I’ve ever seen, the degree of control almost making it come across like an animated film, or some flawlessly crafted pop-up book. Tati carefully re-trains you how to see, immersing you in a city of his own design as a venue for staging simple human truths.
The heart of ‘Playtime’ eludes me – I think Tati feels like it’s there, distributed amongst the busybodies of the film, and I admire his ambition to skip the proxy of a single relationship and create an abstract emotional connection to intangibles like culture and life.
I found out the hard way that Tati's films don't really have a plot progression. Or much of a plot to begin with. Or dialogue. etc.
Playtime was difficult to sit through at first. I almost abandoned it completely halfway through, but picked up the second half the next day. I'm so glad I gave it a second chance.
Playtime is a 'Where's Waldo' of 1960s Paris sprawled out on miles of canvas. There's so much to look at that it SHOULD keep your interest, but after the first hour I was ready to leave the world Tati created and find another.
Tati predecessed Altman, I guess, in this location-specific ensemble flick; I'm reminded of both Nashville and Ready to…
"What's a mob to a king?
What's a king to a god?
What's a god to a non-believer?" - Kanye West, Shawn Carter, et al.
Jacques Tati must have been a geometer in a past life; the compositions and angular sets here are enough to make Euclid swoon.
Taking place over the course of roughly a 24-hour period, as a viewer it's easy to separate the film into three distinct segments: day, night, then day again. Daytime is definitely Playtime, if you catch my drift. The nighttime stuff, while quite enjoyable, doesn't hold a candle to the poignant, hilarious, breathtaking depiction of Parisian modernity that comes before and after. However, it must be said that the movie's greatest scene (one of the greatest scenes of all-time!) does occur immediately after the sun has set. Without a doubt one of cinema's most powerful achievements lies within Playtime, one just has to do a little digging to find it.
An obsessively well orchestrated chaos set with a brilliant and lush production design, mocking the modern urban lifestyle with delightful irony. A surprisingly audacious masterpiece, which looks are much beyond its time.
Digital 4k restoration @BFI NFT.
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