There’s so much wit and playfulness stuffed into every frame and every corner of Jacques Tati’s 1967 comedy Playtime — brilliantly restored and newly available (tomorrow) on DVD — that watching it can sometimes feel like engaging in an adult version of Where’s Waldo?
The Waldo in this case is Tati’s recurring character Monsieur Hullot (played by Tati himself), a nearly mute middle-aged gent who’s baffled by the icy, antiseptic ways of modernist, consumer-frenzied, tourist-choked Paris.
The story, such that it is, involves our hero stumbling through a day of missed connections with a business contact. Somehow, he ends up at a restaurant/ nightclub — think of a more stylish ultra-60s version of the bar scene in the first Star Wars — where all hell hilariously breaks loose.
That’s it; that’s pretty much the plot. But this movie offers rich, deep, subtle pleasures, particularly Tati’s lovable, poignant Chaplinesque fogginess as he wanders through a stunning, futuristic set three years in the making. Playtime almost bankrupted Tati, but it was totally worth it.
One of the year’s essential DVDs.
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