Play Time (1967 – Blu-Ray)

“A film that comes from another planet, where they make films differently”

Jacques Tati is often declared a genius, with his blend of French mime and Chaplin-esque silent comedy. However when I tried watching 1953’s ‘Mr. Hulot’s Holiday’ I found it tedious in the extreme with only one gag involving his car towards the end eliciting anything beyond the merest smile. So after a few months I decided to give him another go with his celebrated 1967 colour film ‘Play Time’, but sadly I only found this slightly funnier. Maybe you just have to be French to find an extended sequence about sitting on chairs funny.


Thankfully this Blu-Ray of ‘Play Time’ has much more to recommend it. The fascinating commentary track tells the story of the long and troubled production and makes watching the film rather enjoyable. Clearly Tati went a little mad in his pursuit of perfection as he ended up shooting for three years, bankrupting himself, his family and his studio resulting in the French President becoming involved.

The idea was to have his Mr. Magoo like character Mr. Hulot stubble through a machine-like modernist city disrupting it’s ordered inhumane flow. Most directors would have got a location scout to find a suitable office complex to shoot in. But not Tati, he decided to build his own city with its own tarmaced roads, office buildings, working traffic lights, real escalators and even its own power plant along with a population of hundreds of office workers, tourists and pedestrians. The resulting effect is a grey minimalist fantasy world of glass walls, shiny metal design and infuriating electronics. It’s the kind of maniacal vision that is usually only the preserve of perhaps my favourite director Francis Ford Coppola. Tati further ramped up costs by shooting on expensive 70mm stock, which half a century later on Blu-ray translates into a glorious level of detail. Watch ‘Play Time’ to marvel at the sheer ambition… if not for the laughs.


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