Jacques Tati's familiar comic character, Monsieur Hulot, weaves his way through Tati's most ambitious and costly film, the award-winning PLAYTIME.
A group of American tourists arrive at Orly Airport, among them a pretty young woman named Barbara (Barbara Dennek). As a bus transports them to their hotel in Paris, M. Hulot (Jacques Tati) attempts to keep an appointment with M. Giffard (Georges Montant), who works in a large, ultramodern office
building. That evening, Hulot runs into an old army buddy (Yves Barsacq) who invites him to his apartment, the residential equivalent of a display window in a department store. An elegant, new (but unfinished) supper club opens its doors for business. One of its customers is Barbara; another is
Hulot. Havoc ensues as the management tries to accommodate a capacity turnout and, at the same time, complete construction of the club. Most of the clientele manage to have a splendid time nonetheless and at dawn, they move on to a local snack bar. Among them are Hulot and Barbara, who have paired
PLAYTIME was the most elaborate and ambitious film of Tati's career. It took 100 workers more than five months to build the movie's huge setting, an ultramodern mini-city which was nicknamed "Tati-ville" and became an actual tourist attraction until it was razed to make room for a highway.
Initially released in 70mm and stereophonic sound, the three-hour-plus picture was gradually whittled down to less than half of its original length, but nothing could save it from commercial disaster. Nonetheless, Tati was enormously proud of PLAYTIME and, although it was not his final film,
regarded it as the climactic work and crowning glory of his career.
The notion of technology developing beyond people's capacity to cope with it is a familiar one that has frequently been treated in films of science, horror, and strident satire. Tati alone chose to take the theme into the perennially unfashionable realm of benign comedy. His mechanical monsters
are more annoying than harmful and the beings who control and are controlled by them are not villains and victims but, invariably, innocents as guileless as they are hapless.
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- Review: Jacques Tati's familiar comic character, Monsieur Hulot, weaves his way through Tati's most ambitious and costly film, the award-winning PLAYTIME. A group of American tourists arrive at Orly Airport, among them a pretty young woman named Barbara (Barbara… (more)