Playtime

I stood at the copy machine and started scanning some of my old printouts of Los Angeles Times articles from 2000 to 2002.  Some of the news from those days was about the death of George Harrison, the death of Waylon Jennings, and Paul McCartney’s concert tour that started in Oakland.  I put in five hours of work afterwards and returned home to watch Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” again.  I liked how there was practically no dialogue.  We do hear people say things like “How do you say drugstore in French?”  I liked the part in the office building with Hulot getting lost and confused by reflections.  One shot that impressed me showed the lights of a building coming on floor by floor.  One bit had a bus rider carrying a lamp that looked like a pole, which Hulot grabbed after he got on the bus.  My thought was that the lamp looked terrible, not something you would want to have around the house.  The sequence with the Army buddy was very curious.  Hulot was barely saying anything the whole time, and he was begging out of sitting down with the family to watch a home movie.  The daughter was setting up the projector.  The apartments didn’t have any curtains, so each one was like a television screen, and there was no privacy in anyone’s lives.  It made me think of “Rear Window.”  One concept I thought was interesting was the door that you could slam shut without any sound.  I wonder what happened to the man with the scarf.  Tati lost a bundle of money on this movie.  I’m surprised that more people didn’t go out and buy tickets to see it, but I see that it was essentially a silent movie thrown onto theatre screens in 1967, and there is no urgent emotion in it.  The main character barely says anything, and it is unclear who or what he is.  One character who could have had more meaning was the woman who was trying to take photos.  I guess movie audiences wanted something more than just one man wandering about the modern city.  They didn’t want this kind of experimentation.  The cars trapped in the roundabout going nowhere may have been symbolic of the movie and its place in history.  There might be some significance to the fact that this film was released the same year as Charlie Chaplin’s last film.  It was a movie that was made at the wrong time, apparently, perhaps like Francis Ford Coppola’s “One From the Heart.”  I’ve seen “Playtime” perhaps three or four times over the years.  I think I didn’t like it that much the first time because I wanted to see a different type of movie from Tati.  I’ve come to like it more because of the thought and effort Tati put into it.  Its unusual quality now is its strongest quality.  I wondered whatever happened to Barbara Dennek.  I read only a little bit about her, that she was unhappy and disillusioned about her film career while she was on the set.  She must have been really unhappy that the movie dragged on for three years.  Some of the people who died on July 25 include Vicente Minnelli (1986), Charlie Rich (1995), Howard Vernon (1996), and John Schlesinger (2003).  Today is a birthday for Thurston Moore (59) and Rita Marley (71).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for July 25, Bob Dylan played the electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, drawing boos from the audience.  In 1997, Autumn Jackson was found guilty of trying to extort $40 million from Bill Cosby, claiming that he was her father.

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