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Critics reviews
PlayTime
Jacques Tati France, 1967
Tati erected an entire skyscraper outside of Paris to mount this ode to mid-20th century cosmopolis. The result is a silent film that’s not silent at all, a nonverbal story conveyed so lucidly that the few spoken lines and the handful of languages in which they are uttered are virtually irrelevant.
November 22, 2018
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The movie not only presents us with evidence of the alienating effects of the post-war modern world, but also an antidote, through a subtle play of comic and democratic performance. In this regard, Tati’s film career evolved from his early work as a mime and performance artist.
March 17, 2017
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Monsieur Hulot, the bumbling and kindly protagonist, is not an agent of violence like Caution. Hulot is a ghost, fascinated yet endlessly rejected by the city’s sleek, uncompromising interiors and exteriors. It’s not at all a dark film, yet Tati was clever in taking international modernism and 1960s American commercial design at its word; if this was a design for ease and bourgeois leisure, then a Paris saturated by that ease must necessarily be a playground, a site of fun.
July 10, 2016
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If there’s any justification needed for a series titled “See It Big,” there’s no better than Tati’s masterpiece. A rare combination of high modernism and comedy on a massive scale, it’s a film that’s actually impossible to catch the entirety of on small screen, with simultaneous gags crammed into every plane of Tati’s hyper-composed deep-focus images of what appears to be half the population of Paris, plus (why not?) a few cardboard cutouts.
March 04, 2015
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Playtime, arguably the most ambitious visual comedy ever made, is hardly traditional—and it is certainly not small. Jacques Tati’s 1967 masterpiece goes far beyond satirizing modern architecture and technology to create a strangely elated celebration of the way people move through space.
February 25, 2015
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[Tati’s] feature films are uniformly superb; “PlayTime,” however, is sublime: a laugh-out-loud comedy that, filmed largely in medium shot to showcase Hulot’s navigating the maze of modern life, is also a mind-boggling spatial composition.
December 04, 2014
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Full disclosure: for my money Playtime is the greatest film ever made… My unwavering love of this movie stems from the idea that it remains a mystery to me. Not a complete mystery (I hope), but there’s something ineluctably otherworldy about it. I have no idea where it came from and no idea where it’s going.
November 05, 2014
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Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime may elicit muted guffaws, raised eyebrows, jaws dropped in amazement – but belly laughs? Hardly. Tati creates a different kind of comedy – a deadpan kind that’s somewhat rarefied and intensely complex, but life-affirming.
October 24, 2014
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The print wasn’t pristine but the movie dazzles all the same, a stunning feat of imagination that turned the Siren into a kid at a birthday party, gobbling treats at top speed in fear she wouldn’t get to it all in time.
January 23, 2013
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Whereas Tati had always used humor to create character, here he slowly builds through visual and aural gags (sound was a key component of his “silent” comedy) a rich comedic landscape laced with equal quantities of cynicism and warmth.
November 03, 2011
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The colossal architecture of [Tati’s] sets suggests a satirical delight in the colossal follies of the International Style (and he makes comic use of what he derides as its deflavorizing, impersonal internationalism), but his delight is mitigated by his recognition that its mechanisms mechanize its dwellers and workers, that its uniformity renders people uniform, that its order both reflects and heightens a bureaucratic blindness that threatens the emotional life.
August 22, 2011
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As an occasional filmmaker myself, I’ve dabbled in visual comedy, so maybe my admiration for Tati has a flavor slightly different from that of the normal human. Anybody can enjoy a great juggler’s show, but another, lesser juggler has perhaps a sharper eye for the truly difficult feats. Of course, just because something is difficult doesn’t make it worth doing, so I’m also interested in the motivation behind Tati’s fabulous tricks.
December 02, 2010
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If [Tati’s] mime act was partly ballet, so is his cinema; the paradox of Playtime is that its spaces and rhythms are not only dehumanizing but also eerily beautiful. As on the rugby fields of Tati’s youth, people and objects can either synchronize successfully or not, but it’s possible to have fun either way.
February 11, 2010
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Playtime is a cinematic epic that’s also totally (for some unnervingly) unmoored from the safety of narrative guidelines. Just as the people inhabiting his ultra-modern approximation of Paris gradually learn to circumvent the right-angled jungle of contemporary urban architecture, Tati’s film weans willing viewers from their fixations with linear, structured movie storytelling.
August 18, 2009
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A psychogeographical treatise par excellence… Tati shows a long, impossibly intricate, and painterly progression on his enormous canvas: from a restrictive, rigid grammar of straight lines and orthogonal angles to the continuous sweeps of French curves, expressed most directly in the movement of his characters’ bodies as they travel through an overplanned and overheating environment that, in a series of destructive sight gags, has lost its organizational power to constrain human desire.
May 02, 2008
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Epic and minute, Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME was one of the 20th century’s defining statements about Western culture. In a single sound effect, gesture or slapstick slip-up, it is capable of showing the elusive, comic logic of urban living, of showing things simultaneously in wide shot and close-up.
February 22, 2008
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The film climaxes in a brilliant, nearly hour-long sequence in which all the characters turn up at the opening of a poorly built posh restaurant that gradually falls apart. The destruction of this eyesore exerts a near magical effect on locals and tourists alike. With Playtime’s monumental decor and complex choreographed gags taking place simultaneously in a constantly mutating space, Tati explored the possibilities of 70mm as they had never been utilized before.
December 21, 2004
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Despite critical appreciation, Playtime was so completely, alarmingly new in every way (plotless, starring not one or two people but a cast of hundreds, and completely dispensing with conventional notions of background and foreground) that it needed time to sink in with the public—time that it never got.
June 03, 2001
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For this remarkable 1967 comedy about man and his modern world, Jacques Tati attempted nothing less than a complete reworking of the conventional notions of montage and, amazingly, he succeeded. Instead of cutting within scenes, Tati creates comic tableaux of such detail that, as film scholar Noel Burch has said, the film has to be seen not only several times, but from several different points in the theater to be appreciated fully.
January 01, 1980
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Playtime is unquestionably one of the most important films of the last decade, and yet it is probably for the best that it comes too late. We are surely better equipped today than in 1967 to understand a film such as Playtime, a film incredibly avant-garde, now that so much of the modern cinema has passed before our eyees and been partially digested.
August 02, 1973
In PLAYTIME, the resources of wide screen and stereophonic sound permit Tati to extend this preoccupation to the point where it becomes not merely a means for articulating gags, but a complex vision of the world… Where Tati departs most radically from the conventions of classic cinema is in his multiplication of focal points. Refusing, throughout much of the film, to specify what we are to look at and listen to, he forces us to choose.
December 01, 1971
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