My favourite Tati film over time has been Hulot’s Holiday. Even that work I found utterly unique in the history of film. It’s singular version of the silent film but with everyday sounds but no dialogue, its almost anthropological approach to the material and though there is a main character, the true sense of community on film.
Playtime takes it a step further. This film which took 10 years to make and bankrupted Tati takes film into a further democratic realm in that Hulot becomes not only a minor character but is subverted by his many doubles throughout the film. It is, as someone once said, a glimpse of how film might have developed on another planet.
There are practically no closeups and though there is some direction to the viewer, and the camera does move, it is constructed in such a way that you decide what to pay attention to. It has also been said that it is a film that you must see many times to fully appreciate it. And the composition is a joy.
But how can it be, even as I am overwhelmed by the sheer genius of the film, of its singularity in a medium distinguished by its lack of originality, of its meditative depth and beauty, and even with the knowledge of the trials behind the making of the film, how is it that I still find myself bored here and there.
Usually if I find myself bored in a film I blame the maker but this is a case where I blame myself, and I blame modernity.
I find that even as I appreciate a long slow entrance to a novel (as many of John Irvings or of Mervyn Pearce), or a slow paced film (such as Barry Lyndon), and even as I am feel that this is the real stuff, works that actually demand not only thought but challenge their media, I am looking at the clock, using the fast forward, flipping ahead or just scanning quicker in anticipation of a change.
I say this as a lover of the Tarantinos and high octane thrillers. I know that these greater works actually add something to my life, and that if I could somehow return to a time (like the time when I was in film studies, when I actually enjoyed classic fiction) where these could better compete with the other fare, I would be a more satisfied human being.
The culture has ruined me.
It has made me more of an art consumer than an art appreciator. I want to be more like the traffic in Playtime. The cars move slowly in the film, as if in a dream, and I was wondering after, what if we had developed just a little differently, and we drove leisurely instead of like madmen. What if we were strolling on wheels.