Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Circus In The Waiting Room


Directed by Jacques Tati

Filmed all on one GIANT SET( a set so big it had its own power plant and hospital...)! Mind boggling, slapstick comedy about how human biengs relate to their enviornment. The difference between a world which looks like an endless waiting room and one which looks like carousel, is a matter of how you look a it. Hard to follow, at first (kind of the point, it's like a maze), but once you get to the restuarant scene and the social and technological machines break down, everything comes to life in a big way.If anyone has seen "Last Year At Marienbad", imagine those shifting figures in the garden, crowding through a labyrinth qausi-futuristic Paris (lookout for the Hal 3000 parody), and getting into all kinds of gentle comedic mishaps. When a wall at the restaurant falls down, a tycon sits down in front of it, and declares it the "VIP only section". In Johnathan Rosenbaums essay, which comes with the Critereon Collection of this film (thank you CSUN library), he writes, what I think is probably the best description of the film, "It directs us to look around at the world we live in (the one we keep building), then at each other, and to see how funny that relationship is and how many brilliant possibilities we still have in a shopping-mall world that perpetually suggests otherwise; to look and see that there are many possibilities and that the play between them, activated by the dance of our gaze, can become a kind of comic ballet, one that we both observe and perform…"
The running gag in playtime is that modernity, in all it's forms, is kind of anti-thetical to human life, or in other words, technology and it's fashions are bad. Glass walls which give the impression there are no barriers, metallic greys to imply efficeincy and technologoccal progress, dull colors to not draw undue attention to yourself in the urban enviornment, a world designed to look like a waiting room, an airport, or a hotel, someplace familiar and sterile. Anytime anyone tries to use a machine it back fires or derails somehow, while others literally live in glass houses, their lives permanently on display(In one great scene Tatti implies this alienation by showing two families seperated by a wall both watching tv, where from the outside it looks like their in the same room, having a conversation, reacting to each others presence.) What makes "Playtime" trully great, is not that it is a clever satire on modern life, but that it finds a way to celebrate the human biengs who operate these machines and live through these fashions, not merely to mourn them as passive de-humanized drones. "Playtime" offers us a world, where the Waiting Room can become the VIP room, and where gridlock on a Round-About, can become a circus carousel. The world in minature, and still a world unto itself. Brilliant, colorful, and completely unique. Reminds me how amazing movies and the enviornment around us can be, if we only take the time to look.

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