PlayTime

PlayTime ★★★★★

A playful satire of ultramodernism starring a French mime; a simple summary that unfolds into an embarrassment of riches.

Playtime might have the best sound of any film I've ever seen. The sound design is absolutely incredible, while in most films the director uses visual clues to guide your attention, Jacques Tati uses audio clues. Sound effects are exaggerated and unique to give personality to every little thing in the movie. I could recognize every chair, button, and neon sign just based on the noise they make.

The visuals are nearly as impressive. Almost every shot in the film is a wide shot, allowing for an incredible amount of information in every shot. Tati builds these massive sets and choreographs almost everything. There's so much always going on that it can be overwhelming to know where to look, but there's no wrong answer. Everything is so well composed that the film itself is a work of architecture.

The subversion of the Monsieur Hulot character is a welcome one, he fades into the background of the film as a piece of a really large ensemble. He's one of hundreds of main characters. Hulot doesn't necessarily do a lot, things just sort of happen to him, he's a very reactionary character. There are so many gags that happen out of pure happenstance, we as the audience are the only ones who are allowed to find the humor in it.

This is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. There are very few words spoken in the film so most of the gags are visual, but it still has an insanely high jokes-per-minute rate. Jokes build upon each other, intersect with one another, and are called back to. It's a tour de force of visual comedy.

But the one thing that makes Playtime so special is the life that radiates from it. Jacques Tati is able to find crevasses of joy inside the complicated ultramodern world we live in and celebrate those moments. By the time the end of the film rolls around, Tati is immortalizing this feeling with a carnival of traffic. He recontextualizes something that would normally be viewed as a negative aspect of modern life and brings out the amusement in it.

The cut from day to night in the final moments of the film might be my favorite cut in all of cinema. Streetlights and taillights become dancers in the dark, celebrating life itself.

With Playtime, Jacques Tati made something so unlike anything else, something so pure and full of life that the only reaction I can have is gratefulness that something like this exists.

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