PlayTime

PlayTime ★★★★★

This film always seems to peer from the corner, or even in the middle of the room, observing its surroundings, with "main" characters surrounding the camera, flowing in and out of the viewers lives in sporadic moments of energy.

Much of the film introduces you to the airport, the outside world, the people in the surrounding area, and the extensiveness of Tativille, with it all arriving at this culmination of all the life the film has built up, into one explosive, drunkenly electric restaurant scene. It's perhaps one of the most satisfyingly structured films in history, which would be a bold claim, except I don't expect many more Playtime's in the near future.

The slow destruction of the restaurant is a clever way of creating coherency, with specific revisited parts of the restaurant with a new element reminding you of where you are, making you feel familiar with the building, despite it always introducing you to new scenarios and people. The same happens with other major buildings within the film, it progresses throughout the structures, while re-introducing and modifying the parts you've already visited, like you're returning for fresh air, before returning and progressing further into this madhouse of architecture and character.

After the wild day and night of Playtime, the film begins to close with the sun rising. You exit the restaurant sobered, with the city more quiet, but still filled with people. Like a quiet end to the first day and night in a new city, the entire film exists to fit this odd mood of euphoria, like it's trying to convince you the events within the film was among the greatest nights you've ever had. It shares all the similarities, the camera observes and maneuvers similarly to yourself, every new sight is extraordinary and unbelievable, every person is as interesting and lost within themselves as the next, and even the corner windows always show action you might never have noticed if you hadn't looked there yourself. It's a personal watch, which makes it all the more like a great night, and less like a film you'd watch on a bad one.

You also have to love the way the camera keeps a similar pace to the human step, almost as if it represents an emotional real-time, where an entire night can be summed up in a party scene spanning fifteen or so minutes. The camera often keeps to eye-level, or just above/below eye-level, to keep the gorgeous sights believable, and the short exceptions to this stand out simply for happening at all.

To sum up something that does need to be seen rather than written about, Tati's recreates a tremendous first day in his version of Paris. But you'll never get that first day back, except within your memories. Every day in Playtime is your first day, your first night, and once the final lights of the film quickly fade away, you can simply begin the film again, with its vagueness making it so you can divert your eyes any way you want, follow new stories and occupations, and make that second watch something entirely different.

The silent era may have coined the term, but Playtime is the only perfect example of the city symphony within cinema's history. Let its lights and windows stretch forever across frames in cities where thousands of people will see their city for the first time once. Yet a select few of those will see Tativille for the first time, whether on their first watch, or on repeated viewings. Because every day in Tativille is the first day.

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