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Monsieur Hulot's transition into the modern world
Camera-Obscura7 January 2007
The issue of viewing a film in the right format has seldom been more pressing than with this film. Although I've only seen it on DVD, it shows immediately that it's best seen in the original 70mm format on the biggest screen possible, because of the numerous subtle sight gags on screen, that go largely unnoticed when watching it on a regular TV-set. A treatment equally essential for films like "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Lawrence of Arabia". Unless living in London, Paris, New York, or a few other places, chances of seeing this in the proper way in the foreseeable future are slim for most of us, so one has to cope with whatever is available.

At the time, "Play Time" was the most expensive French film ever made. Tati built an enormous set outside Paris, that included an airline terminal, city streets, high rise buildings and traffic circles, that was soon dubbed "Tativille". Three years in the making, experiencing numerous setbacks and financial difficulties and combined with Tati's perfectionist way of filming, the project could only have been saved - financially that is - if the film was an enormous success. It wasn't and "Play Time" bankrupted Tati, forcing him to sell the rights of all his films for little more than a fee.

Tati shot the entire film in medium-long and long shots, not one close-up. The result is a bewildering pastiche of people on their daily do-abouts in modern Paris (the old Paris, like the Eiffel Tower, is only seen through reflections in the glass facades) amidst flickering neon signs, voices through intercoms, buzzers, and through all this, Monsieur Hulot tries to find his way while stumbling across the urban frenzy surrounding him. The film is virtually dialog-free, and mainly serves as background noise. When watching a film by Tati, you expect Monsieur Hulot. Well, he is present in almost every frame, but he is nothing close to a real character, which is probably one of the reasons audiences didn't connect with the film. On an another level, the sight and sound gags abound. It's not particularly funny in a laugh-out-loud sense, but each viewing seems to reveal a new unseen joke or small detail, a funny sign or a person in the background, not seen before. Most of the gags only work because they are part of a carefully orchestrated ensemble. At the core, the kind of humor is the same as in "Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot" or "Mon Oncle", but here, the jokes are more subtle. It's an enormous canvas where there's so much going on, it's fascinating to look at, but can be a bit tiring after a while. However, the long party scene at the restaurant, when the crowds befall in a collective euphoria, is priceless.

I think for most people, it's all a little too much upon first viewing and in many ways it remains a bit of a folly, a director gone mad in making a film no audience was ripe for at the time, and perhaps never will be. Assesing this film by some of the more conventional qualities one can look for in a film is not a very useful approach in case of this film. Tati certainly made something completely unique. If anything, a work of art that poses more than a few challenges.

Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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I just don't get it.
CuriosityKilledShawn4 February 2012
I'm sure everybody enjoys actual playtime, but don't think this movie is for everyone. It's long, experimental, and can be quite a chore to get through. I can certainly see the appeal and why it has been so critically acclaimed, but after 45 years of culture and cinematic progression, I feel that whatever relevance/edge this film once had has been lost, and many modern viewers will not understand it.

The story, as minimalist as it is, features director Tati starring as Mr. Hulot, who has an important appointment in a retro-futuristic Paris but keeps getting lost and distracted through a long series of sight-gags and pratfalls. It's thin, and I believe it's spread rather far. It's the kind of thing Stan and Ollie would do in 40 minutes.

Stylistically, this film seems to be ahead of its time. The photography is highly visual and works symbiotically with the slick production design (the film is a mixture of various shades of grey however, which becomes quite oppressive after a while). The dialogue seems to be mostly irrelevant. Tati himself never speaks, but other characters come and go without much point.

Tati needed this film to be a success and after is flopped he was in debt for a long time. It's a shame that it did as Tati clearly lived and breathed this film for its entire production and cared about it a great deal. If it was too oddball for audiences in 1967 it just as niche for the ADHD audiences of today.

A well made film, but it takes some amount of patience to get through.
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I finally understand it after three times!!!
anton-629 September 2001
The endearingly clumsy Monsieur Hulot as the principal character wandering through modernist Paris. Amid the babble of English, French and German tourists, Hulot tries to reconcile the old-fashioned ways with the confusion of the encroaching age of technology.

The first time I saw it was on a video tape with lousy quality

and the second time was on Criterion Collection and I thought it was great BUT why could not it be a little bit more funny????????? Then the third time I understand it:It´s ART. You can watch it how many times you want and still find new things in the film.

Also I saw how expensive it was to make.Jacques Tati must have build up a whole town because the set is so fantastic BIG!!!!

But when Monsieur Hulot comes to the nightclub it gets the same old hilarious Tati.

Rating: 5/5 Some day I hope that I will see this in 70 mm but untill then Criterion Collection is a good choice!!!!!
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Peace in our time: the past and the future embrace
stefan-1449 January 2003
Where 'Mon oncle' was Tati's initial statement on the modern and its collision with the old, here in 'Playtime' he reaches his conclusion. They can unite - there is beauty in the new, as well. Yes, what is new and alienating now, will soon be the old familiar tradition. Everything changes, but the spirit of things remain.

This he manages to show in a series of beautiful scenes, brilliant observations, in a Paris which has been rebuilt to the extent, where the old Frenchman doesn't find his way around it, anymore, and the Eiffel tower can only be found in reflections on shiny glass or steel surfaces of modern buildings.

This is a film language all of its own, and driven to a razor sharp perfection. Through Tati's eyes, we can see exactly what he both worries about and marvels at, and of course we feel the same. The love he does in all his movies show for people, no matter how silly they might be, he also shows the city itself, and its megalomaniac constructions. It's all crazy, he tells us, but isn't it great fun, too? Yes, Jacques, it is, indeed.
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It's Tati's World. We're just living in it.
UltraMagic23 November 1998
I comment 2 years after seeing "Playtime" at the Art Institute of Chicago, an event in which the film was presented in its original 70mm format for the first time since its debut. Over the years it had been cropped and recropped for standard prints and video leaving little of the original magic, which is the sheer SCOPE of this visual marvel.

Absolutely amazing sells "Play" short. The picture was so clear and the sequences so thrilling that I dare say this is Tati's Masterpiece. Apparently, he created an entire 1/5th scale city outside Paris and shot over the course of three years to get this honey in the can, and man-o-man, does it show.

This is the kind of film that reminds a viewer just how standardized modern cinematic narrative has become. Tati exists in an alternate plane of recorded consciousness; I walked out of "Play" as if hallucinating, having fully entered his perspective and adopted his suggestions as my own.

This is a film in balance with the nature of cinema itself; if Frank Lloyd Wright was a director, Tati would be his disciple: Tati's cinematic interpretations are in natural proportion to the distinctive elements of film. Visual dominance, sound hyperbarically in support of the image rhythm, help me I'm hallucinating again-thanks Jaques...

Don't miss this one, but don't see it in any other format than a special 70mm screening. Somebody put a screening together!!!
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Intellectually and technically a triumph this is a film that takes repeated viewings to warm up to emotionally. Its best seen on a big screen for maximum effect
dbborroughs2 September 2006
I've finally gone all the way through Jacques Tati's playtime. Hailed by some as one of the great films of all times its a trial for others. I don't know what to make of it.

The film essentially has no plot. People arrive in Paris and interact with Tati's Mr Hulot, sort of. Everyone ends up in a new restaurant where everything goes wrong. The next day the travelers leaves and life goes on.

Allegory or celebration? The choice is yours.

Shot in 70mm in medium and long shots (there are no closeups) in a city that was constructed especially for the film this is a movie that is meant to be seen on a HUGE screen. The frames are filled with odd details and actions on the fringes of the screen that you may not catch the first time you see it (or the tenth for that matter.) Certainly the film play better the more you've seen it. I've seen the first half hour on each of my three or four attempts to watch the whole thing and its gotten better every time I've seen it. The question is how many times do you need to see a film before you can say you like it? Clearly a masterpiece of construction and execution the film is very cold and distant. It also plays very much as a constructed piece of art- very artificial like the world in inhabits. I dislike the steel and glass sets which are very cold (part of the point) and I don't find them really giving any sense of anything more than a block or two of a film studio. It was never a real place for me and I know that hurt the film.

I don't know if I like the film, however I certainly can admire it even as I can marvel at the folly of its even being attempted (It bankrupted Tati and his extended family). Reading on the film is a blast and the commentary track on my BFI release is amazing and its its way I find it more interesting than watching the movie itself.

What can I say? Roger Ebert has placed it on his great movie list. I'd do the same but only on a technical level but not on an emotional level. Even if I warm to it through later viewings I don't think you should have to see something four and five times to before you fall in love with it.

Worth seeing now that Criterion is finally re-releasing it on DVD. This is a renter especially if you don't know Tati's work. (Personally a better introduction is Mr Hulot's Holiday y)
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the joke's on us
mjneu5927 December 2010
Jacques Tati's finest creation is a masterpiece of democratic comedy: a dense, plot less satire of modern times, in which no single character or joke is allowed to dominate. It's a film that has to be absorbed rather than watched, and seeing it can be like piecing together an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Every choreographed rhythm, every odd visual juxtaposition, hides a gag, but the audience is obliged to scrutinize each image for the hidden pattern or inconsistency (Tati's camera is so impartial that first-time viewers may likely miss half the humor).

The meandering storyline follows a busload of American tourists around an unrecognizable Paris of uniform chrome and glass skyscrapers, moving eventually to a swank nightclub not yet ready for business, where all hell naturally breaks loose. Skirting the periphery is the director's comic alter ego M. Hulot, always at the mercy of his environment and never quite able to follow the upended anthill of activity around him.

In Tati's vision of city life the last vestige of old-world tradition remaining from his earlier 'Mon Oncle' has been totally eradicated, turning the City of Light into a hectic, synthetic metropolis where even some of the inhabitants have become artificial (look close at the background figures during the trade-show sequence). Beginning where the earlier film left off, Tati shows good old-fashioned humanity raising inadvertent havoc in a dehumanized world, with the mechanisms of progress proving to be no match for the unstable influence of homo sapiens, and as always Tati celebrates the (painless) chaos caused by our unsteady embrace of a brave new world.

Time and technological progress cannot be halted, but people, to Tati, will always be people: unorthodox, unpredictable, and gloriously fallible. The humor is often subtle enough to pass unnoticed, all of it choreographed into a dense, busy pattern of rhythmic behavior and creative sound effects, observed as if under a microscope.
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Unique indeed, but uniquely boring and utterly lifeless.
diac2284 November 2008
This is what happens when you spend so much time crafting the setting you forget that you have to put a story in as well. Play Time is another example of Tati's inability to mesh his visual skills with communication skills (does it kill you to interact with the gosh-darn audience!?!?!). While the movie looks fine and dandy on the outside, and features grand cinematography; it feels like an utterly incomplete film with its lack of plot, lack of direction, refusal to edit anything unnecessary, lack of memorable scenes, lack of memorable characters, and overall lack of mercy towards the audience by crafting a 120+ minute movie out of something that could have been told in a mere half an hour. Jaques Tati has an eye for the camera, but lacks the heart and lacks the edge that allows for him to excel in levels that Chaplin, Keaton, and then Chan achieved; the previous three actor/directors created memorable characters as well as good settings that allow them to compose their magic (in the case of Chaplin it's his bittersweet slapstick comedy, for Keaton it's his timing and slapstick, and Chan it's his fight choreography and incredible physical stunts).

Despite what the modern-day critics say, the audience during the 60s had it right when they refused to see it (resulting in the bankruptcy of Tati); they didn't like the total lack of story and the lack of the lead character. Come to think of it, there really wasn't a lead character. There wasn't a plot either, well, sort of. The movie follows tourists roaming around a technologically-advanced but emotionally-deprived Paris. The movie is split into five parts, with the insanely-long restaurant scene taking up half the movie. The rest of it are sequences of the tourists, and especially the main character Mr. Hulot having trouble adapting to the world he is visiting. The standout quality of this movie is the setting, which took years to build and perfect. Kind of like the architectural version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it predated the lifeless buildings and plethora of spacious cubicles that we now see everywhere in businesses of America.

The sets look fantastic (and expensive) and ultimately becomes the most interesting aspect of Play Time, as the audience you are instantly engaged in the area as we see long shot after long shot of the major skyscraper-like structure where most of the movie takes place and the adjacent buildings surrounding it. The sound effects of Play Time are also ahead of its time, and they add to the ruptured realism of the soulless society surrounding the cast of characters.

The irony is, the film itself (which is about a lifeless assortment of buildings in an emotionally dying area) lacks any spice and life itself. What on earth did we learn about the characters? How did they develop? What did they learn? Did WE as an audience take away anything from this film? There was such a lack of Mr. Hulot, its almost pathetic to consider him the lead actor at all. The entire movie was a test of your patience as what you saw was not a film, but a man with a camera showcasing what he could do with a lot of money, what he could create with enough funding. Okay, the city looks great Tati, now what happens in it? 125 minutes later, you still don't really know. In Mein Onkel, you at least had some memorable characters doing memorable scenes and at least had some funny interactions as well as good scenery. In this movie, there just isn't much heart and just isn't that ability for you to sympathize with what's going on and who is being affected. Playtime was an expensive sandbox that Tati worked with, and it led to financial failure and the departure of a director that had so much potential but failed to evolve as a storyteller, instead being a director that loved the scenery around him. One would wonder what he could have accomplished as a cinematographer.

Bottom Line: It's just so boring from start to finish; luckily there was some eye candy to keep your interest up for a few extra minutes before hitting the big snooze and allowing the Zs to engulf the entire room. Great sets and eye candy is marred by the inability to tell a coherent story, the inability to fray off the random assortment of scenes, and inability to keep things short and simple. How can something so pretty be so dull at the same time? Once again looking in the other direction from other critics, Play Time is leagues below the best Tati film, and is leagues below the average film, yesterday, far yesterday, and today. The best that can come from this is good practice and teachings for aspiring photographers who need to learn how to take good shots and from what angles work best. This movie uses the camera well, but once the running time extends past 20 minutes, you realize you are pretty much watching a picture that moves—doesn't speak, doesn't evolve into something just moves a little. Just take a random snapshot of Play Time, and you have the entire movie. Where is a good writing team when you need them (perhaps leaving Tati alone as he finishes building his massive toy). Sorry, but major thumbs down in this overlong, overdrawn production.
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Strong warning about this masterpiece
Roemer29 July 2001
Don't see this film on TV. This film was shot on 70 mm and you should see it in the cinema on a LARGE screen. I've seen the film in the cinema first, it was brilliant. Later I saw it on TV, it was mediocre the most. Then I saw it in the cinema again, and again it was brilliant. Why? The quality of this film is in the small details. In some scenes, you just don't know where to look because so much is happening at once. On TV, all these details get lost. DVD won't help! A TV just has way too few pixels! This film relies not on story (there hardly is one), but on inventive and imaginative images. Watch the 70 mm version in the cinema, and enjoy the biggest film this genius ever made, with sometimes subtle, sometime hilarious humor!!!
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In the tradition of silent comedy
diversitycommittee2 September 2004
This is the first Tati film I've seen, but I've heard quite a lot about him. I saw the 70mm reprint with high expectations and was not disappointed.

This is a movie that leads the viewer where it feels like going. It has it's own rhythm and path. Just as circumstance beyond Mr. Hulot's control takes him wherever he may go, the camera seems to follow the same kind of path. The viewer doesn't know where it's going, and the viewer doesn't know where exactly it wants to go. The great thing about this movie is that it doesn't follow Mr. Hulot exclusively. The camera behaves the same way without needing to follow Mr. Hulot. He moves where he goes, the tour group moves where they go, and the camera moves where it may go. The world around them and the viewer dicates it in the most unconscious kind of way.

The first part of the movie is a satire on the inhuman world we've built around us. Mr. Hulot tries to navigate it, but the world won't sit still. Everything moves around without him and he can't find anything. Just like he is moved around, so is the object of his desire, whatever it may be at the moment. But Mr. Hulot doesn't mind, he goes along with it and enjoys it all the way, just like the viewer.

In another Tati movie, Mr. Hulot's Vacation, there is a scene where he's resting on a beach, and his drink floats away with a wave and floats back just as he reaches for it. That's how this movie is. Everything might not exactly go as people hope or plan, but it goes it's own way. Not everything goes as planned, but Mr. Hulot accepts it and so does the viewer. Rather than fight the world around him and force it to do what it wants, he takes joy in looking around and enjoying the ride, and what makes the movie so great is that so does the viewer. You might not know where things are going, but they do what they will and you enjoy watching things unfold.
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Time to play/watch?
kosmasp16 January 2008
You know the feeling when a thing as a whole isn't as exciting as it's small (sometimes) genius parts? No? Well at least you now know how I felt watching this movie. Not a bad experience (although a coherent storyline would've been nice), but neither a great one (at least for me) make up for a 6/10

While the comedy bits do work alone and without a great deal of empathy to/for the "main" character (or any other for that matter) and are entirely founded by a cynical/satirical look at our society/mannerisms, it never develops it's full strength. At least it doesn't for me. And although I watched a restored french version (gladly they're not talking that much, but even if, there's as I wrote earlier not a plot to follow, at least none that I got aware of) in 70mm I wasn't as amazed by it as other clearly are (look at the higher average voting for example) ...
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En attendant Hulot
LCShackley16 October 2008
When I saw this on TCM, they claimed it was the fully restored version, but it was only the 2-hour cut, not the complete original. I couldn't imagine sitting through yet another half-hour of this poorly-timed, occasionally funny mistake by Jacques Tati.

There are some memorable moments in the movie. Here are a few.

1. A running gag involving guys who look like Mr. Hulot but aren't.

2. A running gag in which the only times you see the "real Paris" are in brief reflections in glass doors.

3. A clever bit involving a doorman, a glass door, and a doorknob.

4. Tati's obsession with sound effects. Count how many different sounds of walking you hear.

5. A scene in a cafeteria in which a green pharmacy sign has unpleasant effects on customers and their food.

But between the funny bits are miles of dreary celluloid in which nothing happens. Minor flights of fancy are dragged into 10-minute routines (or in the case of the restaurant scene, an aimless film-length ramble). Mr. Hulot, a truly funny character, never really takes center stage. An unfortunately, Tati spent more time on the sounds made by shoes and machines than on the dialogue. Most of the spoken lines sound like they were deliberately buried in the background. And the odd mix of English and French makes me wonder who Tati thought his audience was.

Supposedly, this was his view of "Modern" or even futuristic France, but PLAY TIME has a very dreary 60s ambiance that gets wearisome after the first few reels.

Having just watched the far funnier and charming JOUR DE FETE made PLAY TIME seem even more lackluster and misbegotten. Tati lampooned modernism much more effectively in MON ONCLE, and on a much smaller scale. Take a look at THAT film first, because if PLAY TIME is your first look at Tati, it may also be your last.
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Whether it's a masterpiece or a failure or both, Play Time remains an essential Tati movie
Terrell-43 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Why was Play Time a failure, sending Jacques Tati into bankruptcy and costing him control over his life's work of films? His previous film, My Uncle, had been a commercial and artistic success. M. Hulot's Holiday and Jour de Fete had gained Tati world-wide recognition and respect. He had become recognized as one of the few authentic geniuses of film.

Watch Play Time and I think you'll find the answer. Tati in his earlier films placed Hulot in situations where we could empathize with him. Hulot was an innocent. As we came to like him, we also came to like the people he encountered. Even with their pretensions and idiosyncrasies, we could see something of ourselves in them. Tati might be holding up a mirror for us to look in, but M. Hulot was such a gentle companion that we smiled as we recognized ourselves.

With Play Time, there is little Hulot. Instead, we have Tati's view on all sorts of social and cultural issues, from the sterility he saw in much of modern life to modern architecture, group behavior, impersonal offices, loneliness, boorishness and American tourists. We're observers, and our job is to share Tati's viewpoint. Hulot, now middle-aged, has become a minor player in the film. In his earlier movies, Tati was careful to give us small numbers of people with whom, along with Hulot, we could come to know. In My Uncle, for instance, it was essentially one family and one modern home, along with Hulot's own apartment and his neighbors. In M. Hulot's Holiday, it was a small seaside hotel and its guests. With Play Time, we have a large, impersonal office building, all glass and right angles, filled with people -- employees, visitors, exposition guests, customers. Then we have an apartment building with huge curtain-less windows allowing the pedestrians to look right in, and we're among the pedestrians. Then we have a nightclub filled with customers, waiters and managers. There is little opportunity to get to know any of these people, much less develop affection for them.

However, as with all his movies, Tati fills Play Time with streams of intricate and carefully developed comic situations (although comic is too broad a term), often that build from small happenings we've barely noticed. There is only sporadic and incidental dialogue, but sound effects are vital to the movie, as subtle and amusing as what we see.

As sterile and unattractive as Tati makes the airport, the office building, a convenience store and the apartment, there are such odd and subtle sights as the bobbing wimple wings on two nuns, a floor sweeper staring at a booted officer, Hulot suddenly sliding down a floor, glass windows and doors impossible to tell if they're there or not, a table lamp that dispenses cigarettes, strange-looking and wobbling food at a self-service counter...and the list simply goes on. And it's not just one thing at a time. Tati can fill a screen with all sorts of amusing occurrences, some happening in the foreground, some in back, some at the sides.

The last hour of the movie takes place in a modern nightclub, the Royal Garden, which has just opened and is barely ready for its customers. A dance floor tile sticks to a maitre d's shoe, a fish is ostentatiously finished table-side by a waiter...then finished again and again by mistake while the two customers ooh and ah. A bow tie falls in the sauce. A bus-load of tourists suddenly appear. When Hulot manages to accidentally shatter one of the glass doors to the restaurant, it is a culmination to all those glass walls we've been looking through and walking into. The follow-up gag with the round door opener is almost worth the price of the DVD. As the modern restaurant gradually disintegrates around us, Tati finally begins to ease up on personal viewpoints and let's us simply enjoy the sight of people becoming more like people. And that, I suspect, is the point Tati wanted to make. In an odd sort of way, the last ten minutes evoke the humor and warmth of previous Tati movies...a packed traffic circle with all the cars moving slowly together; a father taking a toy horn from his little boy and blowing it, too; the bittersweet last look at Hulot walking past a bus where a young woman he met at the nightclub is being taken to the airport with her tourist group.

If you like Tati's viewpoint on the impersonalization of modern society, you'll probably like Play Time. Some critics call it his masterpiece. If you like Tati, I think Playtime is essential, if only to understand what happened to him. The movie is a massive and gallant failure, in my view, and much too long. Still, I'd rather watch Play Time than most of what passes as genius in films today.
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A fantastic film, has stayed in my memory for years and years
leahbrooks12 October 2001
I have only seen Playtime once--in 1975 when I was a teenager living in Los Angeles. I, too, saw it at an art revival movie house (though probably not in 70mm) and remember it to this day! I recall the feeling of having entered a maze, or being lost and dazzled, of thinking how life was like a labrynth and how funny and touching Tati was. I still recommend it to people, especially if you like Fellini. Also, I think the film "After Hours" was based on this film, but the original is far more magical.
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Cold, distant, boring but one of a kind
faraaj-127 November 2006
I saw Jacque Tati's Play Time last night and knew ten minutes into its two hour running time that it would be a painful experience to remain focused on the screen. It is perhaps the most boring film committed to celluloid. With no central character, absolutely no plot or structure, not even one close-up or focused shot and no intelligible dialog, this is a difficult film to appreciate. A testament to my patience is that I started fast-forwarding at least an hour into the movie.

I confess there is much in Playtime that is unique and I could see many things that reminded me of entertaining films like Peter Sellers The Party or Spielberg's The Terminal. In a sense this is more like 2001: A Space Odyssey in creating its own world and cinematic language and not giving a damn to the audience. The vision look is certainly unique - something I've never seen before and given the financial disaster this film was, probably never will!

A lot of IMDb reviewers and even the great Roger Ebert consider this a classic and one of the best films ever made. They are all probably right. Most give the disclaimer that the first 2-3 viewings are painful and it takes time to get into Play Time. Watching the 70 mm version on the big screen also appears to make a difference. I've seen this on DVD and only once. I may follow the suggestion of other more experienced reviewers and may even revise my opinion, but it won't be anytime soon!
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Chaos Theory
writers_reign20 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
There are films that unless seen and reviewed within (ideally) days or at worst weeks of their opening achieve a notoriety that makes it difficult to view them with an open mind at a later date. Greed and Heaven's Gate spring to mind, decades apart yet both the subject of reams of reportage for unacceptable length and exceeding the original budget by two, three, or even fourfold. Playtime belongs to this select group if only because Tati shared the ambitious scope of von Stroheim and Cimino and was eventually forced to sell the rights to his earlier triumphs, Jour de fete, M. Hulot's Holiday, Mon Oncle, etc for peanuts in order to stave off bankruptcy. In addition the smart money says that if viewed in any format other than the 70mm which Tati intended you may as well not watch it all. So with all this baggage I finally watched it almost a half century after its initial release. Where words like satirical have been utilised I would say quirky. Clearly Tati was embittered at 'modern' (which to him was the 1960s) life and the massive inroads being made by technology - think what film he would make today on that subject - and addressed his concerns on celluloid. Whilst I applaud his vision and ambition my admiration outweighed my enjoyment something like sixty-forty.
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A humorous look at the 'international' architecture movement
ggfinn18 September 2003
Others have commented about Tati's artistry and his sense of humour. I won't add to that.

One thing that many seem to miss is the physical setting for virtually the entire film, which is in and around international-style architecture. Tati continually pokes fun at it, demonstrating how inhumane much of it is in practice. Although idealistic and pure in some sense and appreciated for that (consider Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan), it is often better looked at or visited than lived in.

From one viewpoint, the entire film can be seen as a criticism of that architectural school. It may be the only film that concentrates its energy on architectual criticism.
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Six Steps to Satan
tedg26 March 2008
I saw this with "Seven Steps to Satan," and I must admit I liked the other better.

Yes, this is fantastically cinematic. Yes it has all sorts of wry and comic effects. Yes, it is rich.

But its what it criticizes: it is superficial, stylish, amusing but essentially vapid, polished and busy on the surface but with thin artifice.

It really is what it pokes fun at. The attention to being occupied. The obsession with seeing but not understanding. Yes, I appreciate the deft humor, and credit it as better than much. But to what effect? Is the only job to keep our eyes chewing which the screen flickers?

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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neotek-213 February 2000
This is the right movie for anyone who is tired of "modern" comedies. Aside from its stunning visuals and extremely clever use of sound effects (the film has nearly no dialogue), its humour is highly intelligent, not always obvious, and i must say that i was delighted to see a film that did not try to be funny all the time. This is to say, most other comedies put gag after gag after gag, but to do so they usually stretch one gag for too long. Playtime (and nearly all other works by Tati, which are all must-sees), on the other hand, has long sequences with no reason to laugh, and then it hits the audience with a gag (or, in this film`s case, rather an anecdote) - which is only a few seconds long. So its not for fans of Austin Powers or Dumb & Dumber, but nonetheless very, very funny. 9/10
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One of the most singular of all cinematic masterpieces.
philosopherjack18 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Tati's Playtime hardly encourages a deep sense of people as individuals - few of its dozens of characters are even granted a medium shot, let alone a close-up. The movie seems to warn of nothing less than collective obliteration - submersion into mass standardization, into absurd consumerism, into systems and surfaces that can only be stained by human intervention (and of course this is even before the online/social media revolution), into hopeless distance from basic pleasures (embodied by the American visitors to Paris who are kept well away from all its points of differentiation). Looked at a certain way, it can feel overwhelming, and even depressing - Tati's choreography is so staggering, often involving multiple bits of foreground and background action in the same shot, that it hardly seems designed for a human spectator. Of course, this is also at the heart of the film's inexhaustible glory, of its status as one of the most singular of all cinematic masterpieces. And Tati seeds his design with remnants of past humanity or portents of a future one - the sudden appearance of old friends, of mysterious near-doubles, of things that are just funny despite everything. The brilliant extended climax in a restaurant that all but gets destroyed on its opening night speaks to the capacity of collective action for transcending stifling corporate calculation. But it's also plainly a one-off, incapable of shaping the following day for more than a few dreamy early-morning hours. In one of its final gags, the movie posits that a moving window might actually influence the object that's being reflected in it - something that might have seemed like the ultimate loss of control, except that Tati presents it as an elating moment, a promise that all isn't yet heavy and tethered. Least of all, of course, M. Hulot, who returns to the crowd as modestly and mysteriously as he emerged from it.
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A great but very difficult film
Spectravideo26 February 2014
Playtime is probably one of the best movies that is the most difficult to like. That's because it's very strange. Masterfully directed and photographed, but with a story that is as elusive as a greased snail. Long scenes, often with no apparent content or meaning, makes it difficult for the viewer. If you look closely, you'll notice little details that you love to giggle at, and one would more or less involuntarily make interpretations of what is really happening. Monsieur Hulot, who figures in Tati's films (Tati himself), pops up here and there in the film to a backdrop of a newly built and modernized Paris. There are certainly several interpretations of the basic plot, but my own is that Hulot represents a type of man who feel alienated in this increasingly technology-dependent world, where greyness and rectification is taking over and people are getting increasingly further apart. Hulot stumbles aimlessly about in this newly built world and messes things up most of the time. You get the feeling that all these career -seeking , money-driven people around him are unhappy and most of all looking for company. They grab onto Hulot in different situations, seeking contact, maybe because he is the only true original. The long restaurant scene is an example of how our true nature is revealed when the alcohol loosens the shackles of conformity and we begin to act like people. The orchestra, playing relaxed jazz in the beginning, gets more primitive the longer the evening goes, and eventually making the guests dancing like monkeys. No one is satisfied until half the restaurant has collapsed. The end is sad in an elusive way - it's like social progress has already dictated how we should live. The old, simpler, more human life lies behind us and will never come back .
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Greatest film ever?
Zach Campbell7 January 2001
The only other movie I know that is as profound and beautiful and challenging as this is Tarkovsky's "Stalker." But "Playtime" may prove to be a better, more accessible example of what films can do. Tati so radically deconstructs space and depth within a film that it is almost unrecognisable: Spielberg doesn't have this level of craftsmanship, and not even Kubrick ever did. Virtually dialogue-free and spryly paced, "Playtime" works on nearly any possible level.

It can be seen as simply a superficial comedy, and as that, it succeeds because it is, well, very funny. (Modern technology is the golden cow that Tati playfully cuts down to size.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, is a work that stands the art of film on its head, commenting wryly on the nature of human beings, culminating to a party in a restaurant that gets completely out of hand. It's so beautiful.

Words really don't do justice to this movie. One last thing: The big screen is the ideal medium to see this film; that's true of every film, but this one more than most others. Unfortunately, I haven't had this privelege, and if you don't either, rent it anyway. It's too good to be missed.
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The Great Tati Loses His Fastball
GManfred31 December 2012
I enjoyed Jacques Tati's previous films so much that I thought "Playtime" would be the culmination of Tati the artist, his obra maestra. I had never seen it and it played recently at Lincoln Center in New York. I must say that I was somewhat disappointed, although it seems to be more self-consciously important and expensive than his more modest efforts, like "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" and "Jour de Fete".

This one was just not as funny or as clever as the others and his fabled sight gags lacked timing and resourcefulness. Yes, yes, it was more elaborate and on a grander scale, and spare me the artistic arguments - I am not a film critic but a moviegoer with no pretensions other than to be entertained for an hour or two. And I was entertained, and also saddened to witness Tati and his considerable talent on the downside. I guess movie makers, like baseball greats, can overstay their welcome but still be received warmly by a public who remember better times.
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harry_tk_yung10 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a piece of exquisite artwork created in 1967 by master Jacques Tati who also played Monsieur Hulot the main character (as if I know anything about art). The other thing to be mentioned up front is that filmed in 70 mm, Playtime is reportedly the most expensive French movie to make, with a lavish set of steel, chrome and glass Paris that is futuristic not only back then, but even today.

One way to describe this movie is "sketches". The "story", if you can call it one, is tracing the loci of two unrelated parties – Hulot on a one hand and a group of American women tourists on the other – through Paris, where they converge, split apart, and converge again. The dialogue (again if you can call it such), in both English and French, is scattered, disjointed and at times just human sounds expressing various reactions.

One way of looking at Playtime is as a symphony. The first movement is at the Paris airport where the emphasis seems to be on the mechanical nature of movements. The second movement has three themes, starting with Hulot's blundering in a certain government building trying to attend an appointment. The scene then movies to a furniture trade fair where he has brief encounters with a young women in the group of tourists. The final theme in the second movement is a domestic setting but seen through ceiling to floor glass walls as if you are looking into an aquarium tank.

Unlike in most symphonies where the third movement is the shortest, the night club scene in Playtime is the longest, and most hilarious. No description can do it justice. Its sheer brilliance has to be seen to be appreciated. The last movement is the dawn after the party, which strangely reminds me of a similar dawn after "Take me to the church on time" in "My Fair Lady". The last movement is playfully witty, turning a small traffic circle in Paris into an imaginary carousel. There is an ingenious touch of turning the reflection of people on a leveraged window being wiped into an imaginary Viking boat type of ride.

I have really not said anything about the movie, let alone described how wonderful and fascinating cinematic experience it is. The movie is so rich in everything that I'm not surprised that one of the comments suggests watching it several times. Its beauty certainly has to be seen to be appreciated.
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jboothmillard2 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I knew about this French film when I saw it listed in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, it was the last in the book from director Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot's Holiday), and another follow up from Mon Oncle, featuring his most popular character. Basically, set in Paris, six sequences structure the story, as in the course of one day American Tourist (Barbara Dennek), visiting with a group of mostly middle-aged American women, and befuddled Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati), the Frenchman lost in the modern city, these two characters repeatedly encounter each other. These sequences are at Orly Airport when the American tourists arrive, a series of large glass and steel buildings where Monsieur Hulot has an office meeting, he and the tourists go to a trade exhibition seeing the latest gadgets, from the street Hulot goes into an apartment building, he encounters several previously met characters at the Royal Gardens, and before the American Tourist leaves he buys her some memento gifts at the carousel of cars. Of course all of these events are filled with chaotic moments and amusing fumbles, but that is what we have come to expect from the bumbling Frenchman. Also starring Rita Maiden as Mr. Schultz's Companion, Jacqueline Lecomte as Young Tourist's Friend, Valérie Camille as Mr. Lacs's Secretary, France Rumilly as Woman Selling Eyeglasses and France Delahalle as Shopper in Department Store. As with the other two films he appeared in Tati is still likable with his comic creation, apparently the film was meant to be longer, to me it is fine the length it is, and also the director supposedly took ten years to make this film, leaving him near broke, interesting considering how little happens, but if you consider interesting technical decisions and tricks it adds up, a worthwhile enough satirical comedy. Very good!
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