Try “Playtime” by Jacques Tati And Taste The Humor Of Back-In-The-Day French Comedy!

A still frame from the film “Playtime” by Jacques Tati

In the middle of the 20th century, Europe got introduced an up-and-coming star of physical comedy. Have a clue who we’re talking about?

No, it’s not Charlie Chaplin, no ma’am. Whom we’re getting at is French cinema persona Mr. Hulot (Monsieur Hulot), played by French director and actor Jacques Tati.

But, although a recurring character in most of Tati’s movies, the fact that you just pretended to remember who he was, does very little to show you what the movie “Playtime” is all about. The character says zero about the movie as a whole. Or in it. He barely speaks in the movie.

“Playtime” is that one risk every director decides on as their career advances.
“Playtime” is the screening its audience walked out of, the risk that didn’t pay off. Financially.

But ideologically, it’s a David vs Goliath battle between man and idea; an ABCs in the curriculum of every filmmaker since; and proof that one guy managed to do what we all long to: he envisioned ahead of his time!

So, after losing all possessions to “Playtime” and building an entire town set to fit it, Jacques Tati must have shrugged it off, raised his brows, and said:

“I guess you guys aren’t ready for that, yet. But your kids are gonna love it! ”

But enough “Back to the Future” quotes, let’s try and invoke the whimsical spirit of “Playtime”. And for that purpose we’re leaning on the following two movies and a TV show:

“50 Shades of Gray” – Playtime” is the most unusual movie set in Paris.
“How come?”, you ask, “What do you mean no Eiffel Tower, no cheese and wine, no Quasimodo, no Amelie, and not even Ratatouille?? Well, go figure!”
Hear us out, though. This is some sort of “futuristic” Parisian dystopia in a shades-of-gray scenography Tati made use of to make satire on modern architecture, technology-based future, and the much-feared at the time ‘New Yorkization‘ of Paris, for if there is one land everyone has obviously felt free to criticize over the years, it is America.

Anyway, Tati’s idea was to make a color feature film that resembled black and white cinema to a great length. Therefore, he constructed the ultimate gray scenography. You might be bothered by the fade colors, you might be bothered by the uniformity of characters and wonder what on earth is going on, until you realize that even in the core of grey matter, that pink cheerfulness French vie en rose is known for, could never, ever be bleached down.

“Mr. Bean ”- You’ll finally be able to put your finger on what’s inspired the popular Mr. Bean.

Mr. Hulot is the one barely speaking (save for some murky mumbling); the clumsy one who gets easily distracted by everyday objects; the one who goes for the funny way of dealing with a problem. Mr. Hulot and his gags.

Known for his umbrella, trench coat, and pipe, and the fact that in the year 2009 he began to appear on posters without his famous pipe due to the tobacco advertising ban in France, being shamelessly censored in the middle of Western Europe.

And finally: “Seinfeld”“Playtime” will give all “Seinfeld” fans a rare glimpse of what a movie about nothing really looks like:

There’s almost something going on, but there’s no storyline;

There’s some recurring characters, but no real protagonists;

They do talk here and there, but there’s no dialogue.

Maybe the point is in seeing how the characters slowly abandon their walk-in-a-straight-line pattern for a more circular formation. Literally. (meaning they slowly start to break their strict social barriers)

Maybe the point is in playing several simultaneous actions of physical comedy at the same time on the big movie screen so that we’re unable to see all, but only one that catches our eye.

Maybe Jacques Tati simply misread his era – Jacques Tati, the man we didn’t aid when he was still alive, but whom we promise you’ll mourn once you see the film.

Johnny Boogieman

About Johnny Boogieman (né Johnathan Boogiemanovich Goode) is an American comedy reviewer and a self-proclaimed cinema connoisseur, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. … Johnny grew up on a farm in Louisiana, as the only child of a Louisiana-based field worker, dressmaker, dog hairstylist, dog collar jewelry designer, dog walker for the elderly (dogs and owners), disabled and elderly dog walking aids creator-in-attempt, and homemaker, Dutch single mother. As large a clientele as dogs were for the barely-gasping-for-air family business, they were the proud owners of a single tabby cat alone, a streetwise and self-dependent hunter known by either of the street names Stringer Bell and El Capo (sometimes referred to as El Cato). … Having been amazed by the crazy wild early readings of Jules Verne, Johnny’s school days were spent dreaming he’d someday make for a good storyteller. Hence, as early as fourth grade, eager to prove himself to the world, he went for it and constructed a well-balanced heartbeat-skipping thrilling essay, pointing out to some well-reasoned critique of society and solid character arcs, committing to his talents to the fullest and diving right into that pool of majestic phrasing and complexity of thought, confident he’d soon get bejeweled with a spotless A and a pretty clap by the teacher, with gradually having the whole class join in looking up to him as he emerges from his seat to receive his essay evaluation. When results day came, though, little Johnny not only got a D, but he was mocked by the teacher and class for the gullible overexposure of his fragile overambitious mutating childish writing skills of questionable taste and poor poor quality. It was the “you’re tearing me apart, Lisa” equivalent of a child’s essay. He was rather massacred. He never got that brave ever again. … Anyway, Johnny mainly spent his summers field-working on a sunflower field with his uncle Berry under the widespread wings of the storks and the chesty white doves and clever black crows who all flew right under the neighbor’s umbrella caps patio ceiling installation thingy as soon as the first raindrop was godshed over the one-eyed monsters battalion that the sunflower sea was to Johnny. It drove the unwilling bird host nuts, and he’d storm right out yelling and cursing at the birds, “we’re going, we’re going” they went, and flew a semi-circle over the umbrella caps as to fool him and came right back the other way around pretending to be some fresh arrivals of clueless law-abiding American birds not yet acquainted with the police system of the patio. The guy wouldn’t take it out as it took ages to plant and he and his wife thought it made them look like fancy DIY people who had some ideas worthy of admiration. Oh, the bird manure, though, oh the bird manure. “Work your time, boy” – staring Johnny’s uncle frowned, his eye twinkled. … Cinema was to Johnny what he made plans for, what he made time for, what he looked up to all his life, and as he became a young adult, what he fancied himself to have a special talent to understand. It was the sort of a sixth sense, an intuition, a gut sense. He was the squad movie buff and a film whisperer. “No”, it whispered, “Fight Club ain’t no bueno. Mark my words and don’t ask why ‘cos you ain’t schooled enough to know why, boy.” He tried, though, he debated and disputed over a glass of scotch-on-the-rocks and under the jibe of a saxophone jazz, but it was as fruitless and dull as the poetry he wrote - unclean, uneven, and too abstract - as if he hadn’t found a voice to speak in yet. He did his part for years to come, reading as all writers ought to, writing and not publishing until he found out what he had to say with the peculiar piece of work. As for cinema, it happened one evening as he discussed legs-up-a-recliner their plans for the future with his lover-cum-best friend in their rented one-bedroom living space in New Jersey, that his lover casually contributed: “And then I thought we could start a film blog and you could do the content writing” – words that sunflower field Johnny with his gangster cat and his dewy eyes staring at the rainy-day con birds thought he’d never hear.

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