One hundred and twenty-four minutes of brilliantly choreographed sight gags. Frankly, I am not entirely sure what else I could say. Playtime by Jacques Tati is one of the funniest films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. As I mentioned, it relies almost solely on visuals with nearly zero verbal punchlines. It leaves everything to the viewer.
I assume that I could watch this ten more times and still see something new. The choreography behind it all makes the film everything that it is; most of the shots are long and it does not miss a beat.
Behind all of the gags, there is a vision of what the world was becoming. This vision is not in the story; to be fair, I am not even sure that there is a story in Playtime but there is a clear vision of what Tati was seeing. The sets constructed for the film are gray and lifeless, save a few carry-overs from an earlier time, and there is an invisible separation between people throughout the entire film. To call it invisible is not entirely accurate: there is glass. Huge and flawless, the plate glass surrounding everything cuts lives in two.
There is a distinct comedy of our daily lives that we systematically allow to happen and do little to impede. This separation is our own and, at this point, will continue forever unless we break down the separation ourselves. There is one guffaw moment at the nightclub between Tati, a doorman, and the door in his charge. It would be criminal for me to spoil it for you, but the event contains a valuable lesson that when we break down the barrier, we cannot continue to pretend that it still has a function.
Social commentary aside, I defy anyone to watch Playtime and not fall out of their chair. Whatever experience I may have with drama or art house films I have tenfold in comedy, and this one puts the rest to shame. I highly recommend you watch this movie – highly. And do yourself a favor and watch it with some friends. If you love visual comedy, then by the end you will certainly learn your friends’ true character.