A comic satirist in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, French director-star Jacques Tati created his most ambitious playground with Playtime. One reason Tati chose to shoot in 70mm – a widescreen format whose larger film frames allow for a brighter picture and sharper focus – was to be able to fully capture the false city blocks he built for the picture. A spoof of modernity in all its most conspicuous forms – architecture,
technology, shopping – Playtime re-creates a supposedly perfect metropolis and then watches as it comes undone by man’s inherent folly. Taking us from an airport to an office to a shopping mall – loosely connected by the wanderings of the befuddled Monsieur Hulot (Tati) – Playtime consists of a series of deadpan, elaborately staged set pieces chronicling the trampling of the individual within contemporary society. The movie then climaxes with the hilariously disastrous opening of a new high-tech restaurant, in which the quirks of individuals overcome even the smoothest of planning. Add a few jabs at our increasingly homogenized planet – posters in a tourism office reveal the same gleaming office building in each world capital – and Playtime also reads like a prescient satire of the onset of globalization.