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A Film Diary

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Watched: 22 October

Jacques Tati’s PlayTime is a formalist masterpiece, with various factors such as the sound, set design and lighting contributing a huge amount to the overall piece. Set in and around similar-looking locations in Paris (the airport, an office building where there’s also a trade expo taking place, a restaurant and an apartment block, all of which are rather uninspiring glass-fronted modernist buildings), we follow Tati’s partly-confused Mounsieur Hulot (here often a supporting character, unusually), as well as a random party of American tourists, as they negotiate their way around these spaces and the modern devices and processes contained within, much of which seem to simply frustrate the human beings, as opposed to making their lives easier or better. It’s also choreographed superbly and very, very funny, with so many of the jokes occurring in the background as well as the foreground; as such I will definitely return to this at a later date to try and catch everything that I inevitaby missed first time round. A few random highlights: the brief, strangely melancholic moment in which the Eiffel Tower is reflected in a window; a doorman seemingly sporting a pair of antlers after he bends down near some fancy door handles; the entire restaurant scene, particularly when the band fires up and people start to dance; the invention of a slammable door that makes no noise; the traffic jam and roundabout depicted as carnival ride; the fun to be had from trying to spot the one flash of red in every single scene. Anyway, there are far too many other moments to list, and I’ve probably forgotten a lot of them already. Tati’s celebration of the unconventional and his commentary on Paris as it appeared in the 1960s couldn’t be clearer… this is an utter delight from start to finish. (*****)

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