Playtime

After a day of lecturing and dealing with students, I went home and watched the last out of Game 6 of the World Series.  Dan Otero gave up the biggest hit of the game, although the Cubs still scored two more runs after that.  I then watched Jacques Tati’s “Playtime,” which is considered Tati’s greatest creation.  The Criterion Collection edition has an introduction by Terry Jones, who talked about what it was like to see the film in 70 mm.  The movie was expensive to make and was a financial disaster for Tati.  I imagine that people wanted to see more of Monsieur Hulot, and they didn’t like the lack of a plot.  Looking back, the quality of the soundtrack has hurt countless foreign films, like dubbed dialogue sounds fake.  The American tourists didn’t sound like a real group.  The constant theme is the confusion of the modern world, which I suppose didn’t make much of an impact in 1967 with all that was going on.  I thought that when Hulot gets lost in the office building, it’s quite interesting.  Work stations are still similar to what is shown in the film.  People in their apartments are separated into similar squares, although in a vertical arrangement.  I did think it was more interesting when we saw it in “Rear Window,” however.  The atmosphere in Paris has a lot of gray in it, with flashes of red.  There is a lot of glass with reflections, although not like the mirrors in “Citizen Kane.”  Americans come in and invade places.  One woman took a long time to photograph a woman selling flowers, and one man ignored reservations in a restaurant and acted as though he owned the place.  The restaurant sequence had a lot to it, including a fish that was never served.  That made me think back to Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times.”  “Playtime” had the feel of a silent movie.  There isn’t much dialogue in it.  Another thing that this film doesn’t have is real characters.  The people are just types.  The only ones I can recall having names are Hulot and a tourist named Barbara.  I’m not too sure that I would have been eager to see a movie in 1967 that was about feeling alienated and lost in a Paris that was lacking it usual beauty.  Tati took three years to make “Playtime,” running up the cost in a way that Francis Ford Coppola would do with “Apocalypse Now.”  Maybe it was more like “One From the Heart.”  I compare this movie in my mind to “Modern Times,” which had Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard and “Smile.”  I think it’s a good movie and pretty amusing, but it’s not the statement it was intended to be.  Building those sets didn’t make the ideas sink in deeper.  Audiences apparently just watched and didn’t think too much about what they were seeing.  I thought about “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” and “Amelie,” three movies for which the setting was altered for the sake of photography.  Those movies did have lively qualities to them.  Was there real value in constructing this fake Paris rather than find locations out there and try to do something like “Holy Motors”?  Tati seemed to release his movie at the wrong time for the audience out there.  1967 was the year of “The Graduate” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”  Tati didn’t like to use close-ups.  There is a lot of merit to that approach, especially when I look at today’s movies and feel that I can’t ever see anything because the camera is too close to the actors.  Tati made only six feature-length films, and he never got rid of Monsieur Hulot.  One of his scripts planned for the rock group Sparks was to show Hulot’s death.  “Playtime” forced Tati into bankruptcy.  His last completed film was “Traffic” in 1973.  He began filming the documentary “Forza Bastia” in 1978, but didn’t complete it.  He died of a pulmonary embolism on November 4, 1982.  Thinking about “Playtime” now, I wish that more movie directors could show the individuality that Tati did, and try something out of the ordinary, to make that mold.  “Playtime” actually wasn’t released in the United States until 1973, and then it was in 35 mm and edited down from 124 minutes to 103 minutes.  I think I first saw it during the 1980s, and I can’t recall which version it was.  I see that Roger Ebert had it listed as one of the great movies of all time.  I liked watching “Playtime,” although I find it exhausting to watch it, and it doesn’t make me feel eager to see it again.  I saw that Barnes and Noble had begun their Criterion Collection sale.  I was looking for movies like “The Red Shoes” and “Ikiru.”  Some of the people who died on November 2 include George Bernard Shaw (1950), James Thurber (1961), Irwin Allen (1991), and Hal Roach (1992).  Today is a birthday for David Schwimmer (50).

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Movies. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s