or how Positif could reconsider modernity on the occasion of its 60th birthday!
In Jacques Tati’s previous feature film, My Uncle, the convoluted architecture of the house of a firm’s top executive pointed out, with remarkable foresight – the film was made in 1958 – and in an essentially burlesque tone, the absurdities of a petty modernity, as opposed to a peaceful, traditional and idealized “world of bygone times,” portrayed as a small town of flourishing commerce and conviviality, where the out-of-date figure of Monsieur Hulot could evolve at his pace. In Playtime (1967), laughter leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and it will probably get bitterer as years go by, as it has become hard to watch the film again without boldly admitting that “they have won”. The triumph of the rectangular parallelepiped
throughout the urban landscape of the business blocks marks as well the triumph of a process of dehumanization, constantly insinuated through a galloping corporate globalization (the notorious they, perhaps). Jacques Tati finds the proper rhythm, as well as the geometrical formalism that demonstrates the extent to which this world, in the 60s, had already provided serious reasons for concern. May the film’s finale also prove to be prophetic, reinstating the poetry, at the same time graceful and gauche, of the future Hulots to come.
Film Critic, Positif