Sunday, February 8, 2015

460. PLAYTIME (1967)

Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Tati
Written By: Jacques Legrange, Jacques Tati, Art Buchwald
Main Cast: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Jacqueline Lecomte, Valerie Camille, France Rumilly
Click here to view the trailer


Unfortunately, I have to report that my third attempt at a Tati film/a Hulot film didn't work out any better than my first two attempts. I still found this third try - Playtime - hard to swallow and while I'll admit it's probably the best looking comedy I've ever seen, it wasn't enough to win me over.

The film, like Mon Oncle, takes another look at the fascination of modernism postwar and a very gray, French world. The film is broken down into several pieces, with everything starting out in an office building, where Hulot goes for a meeting, of which I think we never learn the origin of. Hulot stumbles and staggers around the offices, trying to meet his party but something keeps separating them. Keep your eyes open during this segment, as you'll notice an obvious fascination of Tati's with geometry - or is he just trying to say that in the future, everything will have a distinct shape, a square, a rectangle of a future? The second half of the film is almost entirely Hulot free and takes place almost entirely in a restaurant, during the opening night of a upscale new eatery. I was fully willing to give this film decent enough marks until the restaurant scene began and then seemingly never ended. I kept wondering what was the point of all this and despite a hilarious gag (a glass door is shattered, yet a doorman - to give the illusion that the door is still there - continues to move the doorknob back and forth to entering and exiting patrons) it was almost totally pointless.

I started to see bits & pieces of some messages coming through, but I think the main problem is that I'm going into these thinking I'll see a comedy and not really preparing to receive messages and theories on the bleak future of France. Perhaps, if I hadn't gone in expecting strict comedy, I'd have been more receptive and been more able to pick out little jabs at postwar society. What you have here are three movies that I found very difficult to sit through (well, Mr. Hulot's Holiday wasn't that bad), yet three movies that I doubt I'll soon forget. I guess it's saying something that I can at least admit that the films are very memorable, despite boring me to tears. If there was a little more plot structured around the gags (which are kept to a minimum here, much like in Mon Oncle) and the messages, I think these would've won me over better, but as it is, I'm glad they're done. On a side note, has anyone ever gone through these films and picked out the things that Tati predicted right? The vacuum cleaner that runs itself and the gadgets that spring to life simply by waving your hand in front of them actually came true and it's kind of amazing that Tati had the foresight (or maybe just the luck) to envision such gizmos that wouldn't actually be invented for decades.

RATING: 4/10  Same rating, although I'd probably go closer to '5' for Mon Oncle in hindsight. I was hard pressed to find anybody who had anything negative to say about these movies, meaning I'm in a minority here. Oh well...won't be the last time.


February 8, 2015  5:13pm


  1. And again, sorry it didn't hit the spot for you.
    I will still not try and swing you round, and accept, with some understanding what you say.
    I will quietly continue to think he has some very strong moments..
    At least it's over for you..

    1. Two more director tributes coming soon. Lets hope they're better to me: Tarkovsky and Truffaut.

    2. All the best with tarkovsky.. long, bleak, difficult to follow... But, hey, like me, yiu can appreciate a good bit of bergman, (not best known for his light, flippant movies).. so maybe.. if yiu are in the right mood...

    3. Well I started Andrei Rublev the other day and made it 22 minutes in before dozing off and noted that "this is going to be a hard one to get through". I'm going to restart it from the beginning tomorrow after work and plan to take it down all in one sitting, so we'll see...

  2. We will have to (mildly) disagree on tati I'm afraid. No one can say you didn't try.

    1. Yes I tried hard and while the films visually struck me, I couldn't get into them in any other way. Maybe a rewatch sometime way down the road.

  3. I just discovered your blog. I am impressed with how many of the 1001 movies you have seen. I also enjoy reading your synopsis of each movie. I would love to tackle a similar blog of my own opinions on all of the movies I have seen of the 1001, but I just don't have the time or the patience to edit my own writing. So, I will try to offer my opinions on your blog when I get an opportunity.

    I have seen 588 as of today. I feel as if it will be impossible to get to 910, let alone actually complete the list.


    1. Hey Chris,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Glad you happened upon the blog and hope to see you back as a regular. I thought it would be impossible to finish too, but it's easy as long as you're constantly on the hunt. Checking YouTube bi-weekly or monthly, checking tv listings (preferably channels without commercials) and a Netflix account will do wonders to get you to the goal.

    2. Good morning Chris, Another welcome from one of Andrews 'regulars', and a hope to see comments from you.
      I also thought it impossible to finish.. Although I would not exactly agree with Andrews assertion as to it being 'easy', it certainly helps if you are computer savvy (I am most decidedly not) as it is surprising what crops up now and then
      My tip? Join iCM .. a 'tick list' web site - it is free - where you can pick up all sorts of links.
      They have a specific list for 1000 MYMSBYD.

      Would you like to say hello and tell us something about yourself.. where you are from, what sort of films you like?

    3. Ok, maybe "easy" was the wrong word, although honestly I didn't have THAT MUCH trouble tracking stuff down. Regular checks to the places I mentioned proved fruitful.

  4. Thanks for the welcoming and the tips. My problem right now is that I don't have much free time. I work two jobs that take up most of my time. And I am recently engaged. I wish my soon to be wife wanted to watch some of these movies with me, but I understand that most of them aren't for her.

    I am from New Jersey, abut 10 to 15 miles from Philadelphia. I am a big fan of older classic movies and foreign movies. My favorite directors are Kubrick, Kurosawa, Bergman, Fellini, Speilberg, Scorsese, and Hitchcock. I probably saw about half of the movies included in the book before purchasing it. Of the last 100 or so, I would say maybe 5 to 10 have been instant classics for me. The rest have been decent to horrible (experimental moves are not my cup of tea).

    I'll try to comment on some of the movies I have seen. With that being said, I would give Playtime a 6 out of 10. I enjoy Tati movies on one level, and also have issues with them as well. I agree that the first half is stronger than the second. I probably would have to watch it again at some point.

    1. Welcome!

      I appreciate the comments and kudos on working two jobs. I get the whole thing with having a wife (or soon to be wife) and trying to juggle movies. Luckily my wife is becoming quite the film junkie herself, so she's actually watched a good 30 - 40% of THE BOOK with me. It can be rough juggling it all, but one thing I recently learned is that taking your time is actually a good way to approach the 1001 BOOK. I rushed it and got burnt out every six - eight months and had to step away for a while. Experimental movies aren't for me either, so when you're force feeding yourself things that you know you're not going to like from the get go, it can get tiresome.

      Anyway, good luck and it's nice to have a new face around here and I'm sure Ray will be very happy to see you around here too!

  5. Good morning Chris.
    Again, welcome.. and thanks for the add on information. I think your imput will be welcome and interesting..

    Andrew has already covered all the Bergman's and Hitchcock's.., but it is fine to add retrosective comments. If you want to find a specific film..look to the right of here, where there is an alphabetical list of all directors .. or you can just dip into any (Chronolgical) past history. If you comment, we see it as 'recent comments' and will probably join in and reply.
    There are some interesting discussions out there .. some long going, but all good natured and frequently humreous. (Go on, join in the very long running debate over 'Cat People' - a film I love, but Andrew is less than keen on.)

    1. Sorry it took so long to approve the comments guys, it's been a long week!


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