Playtime, 1967

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

This scene in the 1967 movie, Playtime, directed by Jacques Tati, really stood out for a number of reasons. One reason was that it was simply funny to see a man run into a glass window because most people are able to relate to that experience and know how embarrassing it can be. There also seems to be a deeper meaning behind this scene which has to do with the modernization element presented throughout the film. In many scenes, the audience sees different buildings and airports that have glass walls, chrome doors, etc. This certainly gives the audience a representation of what the next generation of Paris, France may appear to look like. One of the goals of the film was to reveal what the business world may appear and how it will operate.

One of the themes of the film was that working in the modern, business world turns people into robots and the world becomes a very dull place. Each person is focused on his or herself and their ultimate focus is their work. The hundreds or even thousands of white-collared workers in the film seemed to be on a tight schedule and were always in a rush to get to their destination. At the beginning of the film, these people walked in straight lines and turned on sharp right angles. The only people who walked in a curvaceous and naturally human way were the working-class construction workers and two enthusiastic teens who loved listening to their music. Jacques Tati even attempted to show the robotic life of a white-collared worker through visual effects in the film. The technological effect Tati was going for was to make the film in color while making it look like it was filmed in black and white. The colors he predominantly used were shades of grey, blue, black, and greyish white. By using muted colors, Tati was successful in avoiding vibrant colors that would have shattered his intentions to show the lifelessness that can come about in a world filled with career-driven, business workers. In addition, there were little to no genuine green plants or trees on the set. Every person drove the same car and everyone even dressed similar with top hats and formal clothes. Each person worked and lived in the same cubicle.

 Cubicles in the workplace     


Cubicles at home

The other primary theme and message that Tati conveyed was to show a progression from the dull beginning of the movie to a more natural way of living at the climax of the film. For example, the character of Barbara arrived at the Royal Garden restaurant in an emerald green dress. She visually contrasts not only the other diners, but also with the entire physical environment of the film. As the characters in the restaurant begin to lose their normal social inhibitions and revel in the unraveling of their surroundings, Tati intensifies both color and lighting accordingly. The people in the restaurant finally learned to enjoy themselves by lightening up and having a good time. Another example of living in a healthier manner was when Barbara escaped the American tours and continually had to be called back. Barbara exemplified individualism in a number of instances in the film.

 Barbara’s green dress


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