"It directs us to look around at the world we live in (the one we keep building), then at each other, and to see how funny that relationship is and how many brilliant possibilities we still have in a shopping-mall world that perpetually suggests otherwise; to look and see that there are possibilities and that the between them, activated by the dance of our gaze, can become a kind of comic ballet, one that we both observe and perform..."
I've been working through the films of Jacques Tati with my son.
He created the character of Mr. Hulot, who reappears in almost all of his films.
PlayTime is an absolute classic, but cost so much that it took all of Tati's money and bankrupted him, costing him his house and control over his other films. When you read the story of its creation you can understand why, with weather destroying part of the set during filming. The set was not the usual.
Tati actually built a small city block just on the edge of Paris, with a road network and working traffic lights, its own power plant etc so that he could organise his choreographed routines. It took 2 years to film with endless reshoots.
The film therefore has a geography of its own. There is a contrast between the grid network of the cubicle offices, and the chaos that occurs on the opening night of the Royal Garden restaurant. Humans are baffled by the architecture.
Paris landmarks are reflected when people open doors and windows, but the American tourists that visit never quite make it to the 'usual' destinations.
Tati shows that within soulless palaces of consumption such as the Royal Garden, there are hidden zones of spontaneous pleasure that are the people’s for the taking – although it helps to have Hulot around to hasten the architectural damage that makes them possible.
Here's the trailer for the film.
There are some amazing scenes and also plenty of videos and other texts to explore the key themes in the film. As they say, they don't make them like this any more...