I have 459 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Playtime (1967)
What’s it rated? Unrated for happiness, joy and an undefeated sense of whimsy.
Did people make it? Written by Jacques Tati and Art Buchwald. Directed by Jacques Tati. Acted by Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennick, John Abbey, Léon Doyen, Jacqueline Lecomte, Billy Kearns and Yves Barsacq.
What’s it like in one sentence? Where’s French Waldo-The Motion Picture.
Why did you watch it? AMVP threw down the recommendation and I accepted.
What’s it about in one paragraph? M. Hulot (Tati) tries to navigate a Paris that is so modern that he’s lost in a state of constant befuddlement and uncomfortability. As he fights his way through the city, his struggles are played out parallel to a group of American tourists who find all of it so similar to home that they’re charmed instead of taken aback. Hulot and a cute female tourist named Barbara (Dennek) run into each other multiple times throughout their day but can they stay still long enough to enjoy each other’s company or will all the new technology create too mcuh of a buffer to enjoy actual human contact.
Play or remove from my queue? Play it most definitely, although expect to view it multiple times in order to catch everything going on in every single frame of the film. Never have I seen a busier film with more detail and love put into every single shot for the entirety of it’s running time. Yet, after only one viewing, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what the film is trying to tell me and to even begin talking about it at this point is a bit premature. So Instead of fleshing this review out to the breaking point, I’ll be brief.
I’ve got to be honest and admit that this is my first exposure to a film by Jacques Tati and now I’m frothing at the mouth for more. Mon Oncle is probably going to be the next movie I watch due to the sheer joy I experienced watching Playtime. Tati does some astonishing things while directing this film. He creates shots so complex and brimming with life that finding Hulot in the frame is sometimes impossible until the shot has been playing out for a minute or two. Also, these shots go on for so long and are complex to the point of impossibility. So much so that, by the 60 minute mark, it almost becomes overwhelming except for the fact that it all seems completely effortless. Playtime is like the anti-Michael Haneke film, where instead of a 4 minute long stationary shot of people walking in and out of a building, Tati follows them around the building for 6 minutes, across multiple floors, rooms and conversations. Technically, it feels like this movie is about a decade ahead of it’s time.
There’s basically only 6 locations for entire running time of Playtime. The sets on this film were so gigantic that they were dubbed Tativille by the crew. I was actually amazed to find out they were sets, as all of it seems so off the cuff and spontaneous, yet meticulously planned and executed. The scene in The Royal Garden restaurant (almost the entire second half of the film) is such a brilliantly designed Goldbergian farce, that the entire film could have been made up of this sequence and still been an unqualified success. It reminded me of Noises Off on a much grander and complicated scale.
I really only had two complaints with the film. One of which is even with it’s seemingly breezy 125 minute running time, the finale sequence felt a bit rushed to me. I wanted it all to come together a bit more than it did and apparently there’s a 155 minute cut that might steamroll this complaint entirely. My other issue is the dubbing. With the French people in the film I didn’t find it quite as noticeable, but every single American in the film is dubbed in post and it’s glaringly obvious. For a film that comes across as so detail oriented and meticulous, the dubbing just seems sloppy and a bit silly. Besides these two issues, I don’t know that there is a single thing I would want to change about this nearly flawless film.
Playtime takes some time to really grab you, but once it does it has it’s claws in you for the duration with it’s flawless direction and joyous style. This film really seems not only technically ahead of it’s time, but thematically as well. M. Hulot spends so much of the film fighting or just being overwhelmed and befuddled by the modernity flooding Paris, that it predicts our current generation of future panic perfectly. My parents would feel right at home surrounded by people like M. Hulot.
The film is hypnotizing and lush in all the right ways and if you feel like watching a lengthy film that bursts at the seams with that late ’60’s filmatic gusto that is as rare nowadays as an albino midget with syphilis, then treat yourself to this wonderfully epic film. I hate that expression “They don’t make ’em like this anymore,” but in this case it’s true, if the ever made them like this at all.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? The film took three years to make and it’s evident why in every frame. This shit is Swiss Watchmaker complex, yo.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Haven’t seen but I love me some discreet charms), A Woman is a Woman (Haven’t seen yet but Belmondo+ Godard= Joy), Alphaville (In my queue and on deck for sometime in the next few weeks), Two in the Wave (I’m really behind on my French New Wave, obviously), Merci Pour Le Chocolat (I’m useless).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? The works of Wes Anderson, Hal Ashby, Hal Hartley and Peter Sellers.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 4.0
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.0
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? Do you like fun? Yes? Good. Then play this and drink a nice cognac, we’ll talk tomorrow.
Did you watch anything else this week? Saw HP7.2 and cried like a skinned knee crying about the economy. Also saw All Good Things with Gosling and Dunst and (while very competently acted and directed) felt like a case of cinematic blue balls.
Next Week? My turn. How about either Rubber, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives or Four Lions?