Playtime (35mm)

Director: Jacques Tati

France| 1967. Colour. 70mm. dts digital stereo. 126 mins.

Arguably Tati’s masterpiece, Playtime is a crowded portmanteau, a kaleidoscope of behavioural patterns in which the director provides a multi-faceted view of tourists, bureaucrats, restaurant diners and countless other members of humanity going about their business in a mammoth glass-and-steel city constructed specially for the film. It is Tati’s most ambitious work (filmed in 70mm) and his longest. The vast sets, built at the Joinville studios and designed by Eugene Roman, are deceptive, giving no impression of a studio production. Similarly, although people appear to be coming and going in a haphazard fashion, every scene and every detail is carefully orchestrated. And there is so much detail, so many gags and little pieces of business in every shot, that the film repays repeated viewings.
This is Tati’s definitive portrait of a modern world in which life is becoming ever more standardised and people are intimidated by technology and architecture. But as the title suggests, Tati encourages us to see the absurdities and incongruities and thus regain our sense of humour and humanity. Playtime’s city takes on the qualities of an enormous playground that contains endless possibilities for fun and frustration. There is an exquisite scene where Hulot, trying hopelessly to make contact with an official whom he loses in corridors and around corners, sees him at last at what appears to be a short distance away. Hulot hurries across a concourse to get to the official, only to discover he has been observing the man’s reflection in plate glass. Hulot wanders in and out of the film in various guises, like the host at a party who is not always the centre of attention. As Tati pointed out, Hulot is not the hero of Playtime. The main character, he insisted, is the decor, ‘and the heroes are the people who break it up.’ Rivalling Kubrick’s 2001 in its brilliant use of the 70mm process, and recently the subject of a superb restoration, Playtime can only be fully appreciated when projected in the correct format on a large screen. Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to partake of that experience.

* The 70mm print of ‘Playtime’ will be screened on October 11th and 12th at 3.10 p.m. On these days the film will be introduced by Dr. Laurent Marie of UCD, who will also lead a post-screening discussion. For economic reasons, the 70mm print can only be shown twice, and a special admission price of €9 (no concessions) will apply to these screenings. On other days the film will be shown in 35mm.

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