PlayTime (1967)
March 3, 2019 2:32 PM - Subscribe

Playtime, 1967 French-Italian comedy film directed by Jacques Tati, is considered his masterpiece, as well as his most daring work. It is featured as #47 on The Sight & Sound Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time. Tati again plays Monsieur Hulot, who had appeared in his earlier films 'Mon Oncle' and 'Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot'. It is structured in six sequences, linked by two characters who repeatedly encounter one another in the course of a day.

I recommend re-watching it stoned (where legal), with muted sound, and on a second screen, play Bedroom Mix 2018 or something similar. Thank me later.
posted by growabrain (15 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I saw it in 70 mm at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. Immense screen, beautiful print. I think I cried over the whole movie. It's so incredibly beautiful and painstakingly crafted and detailed. Every sound, every movement, every prop and color has been though out to an insane degree. You really get a sense of one age taking over the other.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:07 PM on March 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here's Mr. Hulot's Holiday in 8 minutes
posted by growabrain at 10:35 PM on March 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I saw it in 70 mm at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles a couple of years ago.

I am seriously jealous. I can't think of another movie I'd rather see in 70 mm. There are some other great ones no doubt, but none that make better use of the full screen experience.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:33 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I found this movie mind-numbingly dull.
posted by kyrademon at 8:20 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yep, I've seen it twice (a long time ago tough), and while it's beautiful to look at and does a good job as a time capsule for the late 1960s "modern" Paris, I've found it extruciatingly boring, particularly the restaurant sequence. I feel the same with Trafic, so I guess late-career Tati doesn't work for me.
posted by elgilito at 8:57 AM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was incredibly lucky gusottertrout. I saw Playtime, 2001 and Cleopatra (with Martin Landau in attendance!) in 70 mm in a span of about three days. It's really an amazing format. I think Playtime especially gets a lot of mileage out of it because there's so much to see in the frame. I recognize that if you're watching it for the plot alone it would be incredibly boring, but I got a handle on it thinking that it's more like watching an ant colony work or the ecosystem of a national park.
posted by Omon Ra at 11:01 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

my partner can't take how boring it is and i can't believe how lucky we are that it exists. people are funny like that, heh.
posted by rotten at 3:12 PM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I feel like M. Hulot’s Holiday is Hulot at play in the old world, and Playtime is Hulot at a loss in the new world. I will admit to preferring the former. I admire Playtime but I don’t enjoy it.
posted by argybarg at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fans are absolutely rabid about Tati, and Playtime is viewed by many as his best - as an erstwhile film studies major I thought I would love it, but the sense of care and deliberation so many champion made the film feel absolutely leaden to me.

I felt like there was no spontaniety and in many ways no subtlety, felt like Tati was always screaming at me, "GET IT???"

That said, I'm strangely glad it exists, it's one of a kind, and I can see how - if you like this kind of thing - you could like it a lot.
posted by smoke at 2:17 AM on March 6, 2019

Playtime is one of my favourite films ever, and I've seen it more times than I can remember. My life has definitely been shaped by most of my favourite things being stuff you wouldn't want to recommend to anybody (or in some cases actively dissuade people from). Saw it at the NFT1 a couple of years ago, which was nice. Wasn't there a recreation of the original edit released a while ago? I'd love to see that (perhaps in a day-long double bill with the three hour Draughtsman's Contract.

Even with the early films there's a divide between people who sit glaring at them and those of us who roll about on the floor laughing. I don't know that I've ever enjoyed watching a comedy in a cinema more than a full house of Tati enthusiasts, though.

I've not seen Trafic for a very long time, though, and then only once.

Strange trivia point: Towards the end of his life, Tati was working on one last film (in which he kills off Hulot during a live TV broadcast, the performers having to carry on as if nothing had happened while carefully stepping over his corpse), and among the collaborators were Sparks. I'd have loved to see that.

I do sympathise with people who sit through Playtime stony-faced. That's how I feel about Bridesmaids.
posted by Grangousier at 2:45 AM on March 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

I found this movie mind-numbingly dull.

Are you sure it wasn’t numb already?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:49 AM on March 7, 2019

I thought I'd commented on this movie but I guess not.

In an unrelated article, I came across a reference to it:
On the DVD commentary for the film, critic Philip Kemp paraphrases Tati: “If Playtime has a plot, it’s how the curve comes to reassert itself over the straight line” (Tati, 1967; minute 7:20).
I was like haha truuuuu.

I prefer M. Hulot's Holiday though it's lighter, but I also like Mon Oncle and it's as meaty. I can sympathize with people who find Playtime a bit dull. I think it is a little too boring, for too much of its time (despite still being visually interesting during that time).

BUT but... the movie is about lunacy bursting forth. I can't imagine hating the restaurant sequence; that's when things start to come unglued and I started to get like the sickos.jpg. And the final bit around the traffic circle, when everything has burst open and the curve is triumphant, and everything is vibrant, wild, childlike, human, passionate, purposeless... That's beautiful and great!

I'm glad I saw this movie. But the buildup is too long and slow for me to want to watch this again, for a long time, I think.

It reminds me some of Preston Sturges' Christmas in July not in any direct way, but bc of the brief sequence when all the presents have arrived at the street and there's just a few shots of utter madness and bedlam that I just wanted to jump up and down and go ha ha yes more more more. But there wasn't much of it in Christmas in July and it didn't fit the rest of the movie quite. It stood out as a strange flash of brilliance that was too much for the rest of the movie. It was like lightning they couldn't bottle, but Playtime is the bottle that holds that lightning.
posted by fleacircus at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2023

One thing I like about Tati movies is that I don't think any other movie quite gets me into that feeling of spectator delight. "Show me a thing! Show me another thing!" Maybe if I was alive in the time of vaudville or circuses and lower expectations I would know that feeling better.
posted by fleacircus at 9:49 AM on April 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

I saw this in 70mm here this week at the Eye film museum in Amsterdam. And wow, what a film!

Tati is an acquired taste but once you do, there is so much richness in his movies. My favorite has always been Mon Oncle and to me that is the most re-watchable. From the opening scene where the dogs playing together already reflect the class structure still to be fully seen. And yet, they are playing together, like the boys do later in the film.

Playtime can't be seen just once and I quote Ebert on this who wrote '"Playtime" is a peculiar, mysterious, magical film. Perhaps you should see it as a preparation for seeing it; the first time won't quite work. '

There are often multiple narratives playing out at the same time in different parts of the screen. And the intensity of this increases and increases until, near the end of the night at the restaurant, it is a frenzy of activity. All the strands that Tati have been weaving, collide, like a big car crash.

It is so easy to miss things that in the crowded theater where we saw it, you'd laugh out loud at some detail - say, the mistaken baby as the families are getting into their cars at the end. And a few other people in the theater are laughing. But, other times, there is laughter and you know you have missed something. "I loved how the maitre'd was marking the bottle of wine so it wouldn't get scoffed," I said to my spouse, proud to have noticed that detail. "Yes," she adds "and how later he puts ash on the rim and we see a waiter walking around with an ashy mouth!". Oops, I missed that.

The film, ostensibly about alienation, ends up being the opposite. Like all of Tati's films, there is a deep shared humanity here. Yes, technology is alien but we are humans and we will somehow make it work. Human life, love, laughter will always prevail. So much has been said and written about this film. I quote the critic Rosenbaum: "Even after all these years the film still teaches me how to live in cities–specifically, how to read disconnected visual and aural signals in clusters that are counterbalanced and comically orchestrated. In this alienating landscape everyone is a tourist, but Tati suggests that once we can find one another, we all belong. In English, French, and German, without subtitles–but you won’t need them."

Tati's movies are optimistic. You spend a couple hours laughing out loud and then as you leave the theater, you have the urge to cry. Not out of sadness but out of a melancholy which derives from what you have seen on the screen: Tati showing us what silly, awkward but ultimately wonderful creatures we are.
posted by vacapinta at 3:03 AM on September 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

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